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Play it to the Bone

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Play it to the Bone

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Woody Harrelson
Director: Ron Shelton
Rated: R
RunTime: 124 Minutes
Release Date: January 2000
Genres: Comedy, Sports

*Also starring: Lolita Davidovich, Lucy Liu, Tom Sizemore, William Utay, Robert Wagner

Review by John Beachem
1½ stars out of 4

Perhaps I'm alone in this (though I don't think so), but I don't care for boxing. In fact, I'm amazed it hasn't been outlawed yet. Think about what it involves: two guys get together and beat the crap out of each other for the amusement of others. It's like the Roman coliseum without the nice architecture (or the lions and swords I suppose, but that's beside the point). Oh well, my rant is over. "Play it to the Bone" may be a movie about boxing, but there is surprisingly little involved. The first hour and a half or so of this film is about the fighters getting to the arena. They drive, and drive, and chat incessantly about topics which no one could care less about, and then drive some more. I'm fortunate I didn't fall asleep before the wonderfully filmed bout, which takes place at the film's conclusion.

Cesar Dominguez (Antonio Banderas) and Vince Boudreau (Woody Harrelson) are two washed up ex-boxers. When a fight promoter (Tom Sizemore) asks them to duke it out with each other for the first time, the friends can hardly refuse. So, they jump in Cesar's girlfriend's (Lolita Davidovich) car, and head for Vegas. The prize for the winner of this matchup? A chance to fight the world champ, and win back the title. On the way to Vegas, the two friends find themselves at each other's throats as they quarrel over who is the better boxer.

I know I usually write a little more about a film's plot than this, but there's nothing more to say. I think "Play it to the Bone" is supposed to be a comedy, but I'm not entirely sure about that. I might have smiled once, but for the life of me I can't remember when or why. Most people know by now that I am a strong advocate of directors shortening movies by losing useless scenes. Never has a movie screamed to be shortened quite like this one. In between short, pointless discussions between Banderas, Harrelson, and Davidovich, we watch the car drive around. We watch it from overhead, behind, inside, and from anywhere else Shelton can think to place the camera. Occasionally, the group will stop at a diner and have a few more painfully humorless conversations. At one point they pick up the horribly miscast Lucy Liu, who plays a sex and drug crazed wanderer.

There are three high points to the film, and they all involve actual boxing. The first two involve Dominguez and Boudreau describing how they fell from grace. While brief, the scenes do offer some insight into the minds of the characters, and what is driving them to fight one last time. When the two finally reach their destination, we are treated to what is really a very interesting match. I found myself truly wanting to find out how the fight would end, even though I knew from the start what was bound to happen. I might even have granted the film a three star rating, had it ended directly after the fight rather than subjecting us to more pointless dialogue.

I've never been a fan of Woody Harrelson, but I've always found Banderas to be a rather entertaining actor. I'm sorry he chose this script, which didn't give him any amusing dialogue to work with. Davidovich's character is a bit hard to understand. She's supposed to be the ex-girlfriend of Harrelson and the present girlfriend of Banderas, but she's more like a mom than a love interest. She does nothing but break up fights between the two men and try to give them encouragement about their chances against one another. As for Tom Sizemore, a very gifted actor, he's completely wasted in the role of the evil, greedy promoter. The film runs far longer than necessary at 124 minutes. I suppose if you're desperate for a movie about boxing, I'd recommend "Play it to the Bone". Otherwise, I advise you to give this one a miss and grant it a generous two and a half stars.

Comments are always appreciated, e-mail to:

* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made, see it now. * * * * - Great flick. Try and catch this one. * * * - Okay movie, hits and misses. * * - Pretty bad. See it if you've got nothing better to do. * - One of the worst movies ever. See it only if you enjoy pain.

Copyright 2000 John Beachem

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