out of 4
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The Great White Hype
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Review by Dragan Antulov
½ star out of 4
Every now and then Hollywood studio executives realise that the
audiences get tired of old formulas and want something different.
This is the conclusion drawn by one of the protagonists of THE
GREAT WHITE HYPE, 1996 satire directed by Reginald Hudlin.
Reveredn Frank Sultan (played by Samuel L. Jackson) is flamboyant
promoter for James "The Grim Reaper" Roper (played by Damon
Wayans), unbeaten boxing champion. Roper was so effective in
disposing of contenders that the audiences and television revenue
began to vanish. Sultan concludes that the main reason is in public
being bored with one black man knocking out another black man in
twenty seconds. His solution to this problem is in a contender who
happens to be white. Perfect candidate Terry Conklin (played by
Peter Berg), lead singer for obscure Cleveland hard rock band. Ten
years ago Conklin managed to beat Roper in amateur fight. Conklin
has long forgotten boxing but Sultan appeals to his idealism and care
about the world's homeless. In exchange for 10 million US$ Conklin
agrees to become a contender and later watches as Sultan
shamelessly panders to lowest racist sentiments in order to attract
The plot of THE GREAT WHITE HYPE touches some potentially
stingy issues like the race relations in contemporary America and
some plot elements and characters have a striking resemblance to
some real life personalities and situations (Don King, Mike Tyson).
The movie therefore had the potential of being a serious exploration
of the subject or truly devastating satire. It had more potential in the
form of Ron Shelton, screenwriter who had used his inside
knowledge of US professional sports to make some remarkable films
in the past. Unfortunately, he was paired by not-so-talented co-writer
Tony Hendra and the script was given to Reginald Hudlin, director
whose skills in making comedy could recently be seen in SERVING
SARA. Not even such charismatic actors like Samuel L. Jackson can
rescue a film which is populated by dislikeable characters the
audience couldn't care less about. The promising premise is ruined
by humour that panders to the racist stereotypes. Most of the jokes
aren't particularly funny and the biggest one happens in the end.
When the film abruptly ends the audience would feel just like those
boxing fans who had expected spectacle and saw twenty seconds of
one-sided "fight". Then they would realise that the biggest joke in
THE GREAT WHITE HYPE was on them.
Copyright © 2003 Dragan Antulov
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