The world does not really need another yarn about a contender who rises to the top of the boxing racket despite the machinations of corrupt promoters. But if you're determined to step inside the ropes with another fight film, THE OPPONENT is a reasonably entertaining jab at a little guy
vs. the establishment drama.
Impatient to get his shot at the big time, Bob Mulligan (Daniel Greene) is tired of sparring with loudmouthed Eddy (James Warring), whose favorite pastimes are throwing fights and sending goons to harass Mulligan. Angry with his manager, Larry (Bill Wohrman), for giving his shot at a fight to
Eddy, Mulligan calms down when he learns the fight has been fixed by tycoon Martin Durant (Julian Gemma), who controls the local boxing game. Mulligan's love life is also on hold because Victor (Ernest Borgnine), father of Anne (Kelly Shaye Smith), the woman Mulligan loves, has a seemingly
irrational hatred of prizefighters. While trying to interest Durant in his career, Mulligan twice rescues the big shot's alcoholic mistress, Gilda (Mary Stavin), and is forced to defend himself against Durant's thugs. Refusing to accede to Anne's wishes that he retire from the ring so they can
wed, Mulligan breaks up with her, and finally gets his chance to fight. Due to complaints from fans, Durant is forced to clean up the fight game temporarily. When he goes looking for a potential champ, the obvious choice is Mulligan, who has not only proved himself against Durant's bodyguards but
also flattened Eddy. Despite Larry's warnings about Durant, Mulligan trains hard and punches his way to the top. But with fair-play triumph just out of reach, Mulligan allows himself to be seduced by Durant's mistress, Gilda. Unfortunately, their tryst is witnessed by Eddy, who snitches to Durant.
Not one to share, Durant dumps Mulligan for the pliant Eddy, and orders Mulligan to throw his next fight or else. When hard-headed Mulligan wins the match anyway, Durant commands his henchmen to cripple Mulligan's famous right hand. Mulligan looks to be on the road to Palookaville, but Larry
nurses him back to health and reunites him with Anne--Victor having finally accepted Mulligan once he realized that his daughter's suitor doesn't throw fights. Despite a negative prognosis, Mulligan subjects his hand to intensive therapy. As part of the regimen, he nearly drowns Durant, who
retaliates by drowning Larry. Instead of throwing in the towel, Mulligan challenges Durant to match him against the reigning champ. To ensure victory, Durant kidnaps Anne and confidently places heavy bets on his fighter. However, while Mulligan takes heavy punishment in the ring, Gilda shows her
true colors, kayoing Anne's guard and helping her escape. The women hightail it to the arena, where Gilda gets her revenge against Durant when Mulligan spots Anne and pounds his way to the world championship. Pushed to the limit, Durant kidnaps Gilda, Victor, Mulligan, and Anne after the fight,
planning to give them cement overshoes. But Mulligan saves the day during a warehouse gun battle, dispatching Durant and his goons, though the ever-helpful Gilda is fatally shot and Victor is wounded.
This average punch-a-thon does its job with reasonable skill but little inspiration. In the lead role, Greene fills out his trunks nicely and exudes he-man charisma, receiving strong support from the rest of the cast. Borgnine turns in a thoughtful performance as the father tortured by secrets of
corruption in his own past; Stavin is a standout as the good-time girl who drowns her scruples in booze; and Gemma humanizes his villain by showing us the seductiveness of power and Durant's hang-ups about Gilda.
Unfortunately, there's nothing exceptional about either the script or the way it is realized by director Sergio Martino. Every fight movie cliche is in evidence, and there isn't one plot development that isn't telegraphed several scenes in advance. With no real suspense to stiffen its spine, THE
OPPONENT often seems to be an out-of-shape contender, not flabby, but hardly championship material. Although the lackluster musical score doesn't help matters, the film is edited with uncommon precision. If you're a die-hard fan of the "Rocky" series, you might want to go a few rounds with THE
OPPONENT (if nothing else, Greene is a more attractive and articulate hero than Stallone). But if you're not a fight film fan, THE OPPONENT is a routine action movie that shadow boxes in a familiar arena. (Violence, nudity, profanity, sexual situations, substance abuse.)
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: R
- Review: The world does not really need another yarn about a contender who rises to the top of the boxing racket despite the machinations of corrupt promoters. But if you're determined to step inside the ropes with another fight film, THE OPPONENT is a reasonably e… (more)