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The Set-Up

Posted by martinteller on March 14, 2010

I haven’t seen all that many boxing movies, but there’ve been a few.  Some are pretty good (Raging Bull) and some are pretty lame (Million Dollar Baby, the Rocky series).  But it’s hard to imagine one much better than this.  Robert Ryan is an aging, down-on-his-luck fighter who’s supposed to take a dive — except no one bothered to tell him.  The film plays out entirely in real time (or close to it… there might be a couple of cheats, but if there are, they’re very minor) on the night of the bout, starting with his manager sealing the deal on the “set-up” and ending with the aftermath of the fight.  Along the way we see his long-suffering wife (Audrey Trotter) walking the streets, worrying about her man.  We see the bullpen banter, where the boxers’ optimism (“I got a feeling about this one!” is a common line) is either rewarded or crushed.  And of course we see the fight itself, brilliantly staged and expertly shot, tense and gripping.  The brutality is heightened by the shots of the bloodthirsty crowd.  It all gels together and makes a thoroughly compelling and very grim and gritty tale, with solid writing, direction and performances all around.  Ryan usually plays a crafty/weasel type of character, here he does an average joe quite well, without dumbing it down too much.  Excellent stuff.  Rating: 9


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