Cast: Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell, Candy Clark
Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Susan Tyrrell)
SUMMARY: At a YMCA in Stockton, California one day, former amateur boxer Billy Tully (Stacy Keach) meets Ernie Munger (Jeff Bridges), who is working the speed bag. Munger has never officially boxed before, but Tully believes he has natural talent. He encourages Munger to look up his own former manager/trainer, Ruben. That evening, Tully continues to rave about Munger’s natural talent to a couple in a bar, Oma (Susan Tyrrell) and Earl. Munger does look up Ruben, and begins training. In his first fight, though, his nose is broken and he loses by technical knockout. His next fight is a complete knockout, occurring about thirty seconds into the first round. In the meantime, Munger has been seeing a young local woman. She wants to get married, and hints that she may be pregnant. Munger agrees to get married, and stops training so that he can work a full-time job. The next time he sees Tully is on a picking job, which Tully has taken after being fired from a number of other jobs. Though he was once a promising boxer, Tully’s life fell apart when his wife left him. He began drinking heavily, quit boxing, and has been unable to hold a job since then.
During their day working together, Tully gets so inspired that he decides to start training again; he convinces Munger to join him. After running into Oma at a bar and learning that Earl is in prison, he moves in with her. He and Munger do start training again, and eventually Ruben gets them both fights. Although he has only recently started training again, Tully is pitted against Mexican boxer Lucero. Like Tully, Lucero is old for a boxer, and is also dealing with the effects of years of fighting. The fight is ugly, with both men being knocked down and gasping for breath. Eventually, Tully is declared the winner; Munger also wins his fight. Tully rides home with Ruben, and asks for his cut during the trip. Ruben informs him that the purse was not large, due to it being the first fight back; he also has to take out the money that he had previously loaned Tully. In the end, Tully makes $100. He is furious that all of his effort and pain have only resulted in this meager amount, and angrily gets out of the car. He severs his relationship with Ruben and drops out of sight. Some time later, Munger sees him wandering through the streets drunk. Munger is still boxing, and therefore refuses the offer of a drink, but agrees to have coffee. The two chat briefly, but when Munger moves to leave Tully asks him to stay and talk for a while. As the film ends, the two men sit silently next to each other, drinking their coffee.
MY TAKE: First, the thing that I immediately noticed: manager/trainer Ruben is played by Nicholas Colasanto, who I recognized as being Coach from Cheers. He died midway through the TV show’s run, and obviously was a lot older by then. However, he’s still instantly recognizable, by face and by voice. I was also somewhat surprised to find that this movie was directed by John Huston, since I’d never really heard of it. That being said, I have to note that I apparently have picked a string of movies recently that don’t seem to have a purpose. It’s not that they’re bad movies, but at the end, I didn’t feel like anything had been accomplished. Usually a film has an identifiable goal, something to work towards or overcome. A lot of the films I have recently reviewed, including this one, felt like they didn’t have that. The characters didn’t grow or change by the end of the film, and there wasn’t a defining moment or event. Frankly, it leaves me wondering what the point of watching was.