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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
* * * * * - 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