Play It To The Bone

Having turned his simultaneously jaundiced and affectionate eye on baseball, basketball and golf, writer-director Ron Shelton returns with a knowing and often funny look at professional boxing. The set-up is ingenious, if far-fetched. On the eve of a much-hyped "Fight of the Century" featuring Mike Tyson, the boxers scheduled for the undercard turn up dead....read more

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Reviewed by Steve Simels
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Having turned his simultaneously jaundiced and affectionate eye on baseball, basketball and golf, writer-director Ron Shelton returns with a knowing and often funny look at professional boxing. The set-up is ingenious, if far-fetched. On the eve of a

much-hyped "Fight of the Century" featuring Mike Tyson, the boxers scheduled for the undercard turn up dead. Promoters Joe Domino (a wonderfully sleazy Tom Sizemore) and Hank Goody (ditto for Robert Wagner) scramble to find licensed replacements and come up with coulda-been-contenders Vince and

Cesar (Woody Harrelson, Antonio Banderas), two well-matched lightweights who also happen to be lifelong best friends. Domino and Goody offer the pair $100,000 and a title shot for the winner, if they can get to Vegas pronto. Improbably (nobody could wire them airline tickets?) the duo must

turn to Cesar's current girlfriend Grace (Lolita Davidovich) — who's also Vince's ex — for a lift in her '72 Olds, at which point the film turns into a picaresque road picture in which we learn a lot about the combatants' inner lives (Vince's visions of Christ, Cesar's sexual

self-doubts) and encounter some amusing second-tier characters (Ally McBeal's Lucy Liu as a junkie tart). Nothing much really happens for the first two thirds of the film, but Shelton's typically deft dialogue keeps things amusing in a shaggy-dog sort of way, and the folie a trois

chemistry between the principals is mostly a joy to behold. Unfortunately, the fun winds down precipitously toward the end; Vince and Cesar have been written to evoke equal audience sympathy, so there's no suspense whatsover in the outcome of their climactic match-up, the brutal realism of

Shelton's staging notwithstanding.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Having turned his simultaneously jaundiced and affectionate eye on baseball, basketball and golf, writer-director Ron Shelton returns with a knowing and often funny look at professional boxing. The set-up is ingenious, if far-fetched. On the eve of a much… (more)

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