Director – Rowdy Herrington – 1992 – US – Cert. 15 – 101m
UK theatrical release: June 26th, 1992.
Hitting on hard times, loner Tommy Riley (James Marshall) is living in a low life neighbourhood on Chicago’s South Side. High school days are punctuated by fights during the breaks; at night, Pappy Jack (Robert Loggia) rides around eyeing street brawls in search of new boxing talent. The moment he sets eyes on Riley defending himself in an alley, Pappy Jack signs him for a Friday night fight – to which Riley agrees in the face of loan sharks cornering him regarding payment his out-of-town father’s (John Heard) debts. Riley senior is attempting to put an alcoholic past (due to his wife’s untimely death) behind him, and believes that his current travelling salesman job will bring him back up from the social depths. The son’s match pays off the father’s immediate debts, but Tommy finds himself unwillingly trapped in the boxing game by Pappy Jack’s promoter boss Jimmy Horn (Brian Dennehy) when the latter buys Riley senior’s loan sharks’ debt so that he “owns” the lad. But our hero isn’t about to take all this lying down; he’s a fighter!
James Marshall, another Twin Peaks refugee, spends much time looking gloomy and moody. The film so clearly has star vehicle writ large all over that it allows little room for anything else. Token blacks Cuba Gooding Jr. (Boyz ‘N’ The Hood) and Ossie Davis are on hand as best friend and veteran boxing trainer respectively, and handle themselves respectably without really having much to do. Both the Loggia and Dennehy characters prove rather more essential to the plot, but here too little is made of them. Worse still, the hugely interesting character played by John Heard, who ought to have a lot to do with the motivation of the main character, barely gets a look in. Ultimately, it’s hard to believe that director Rowdy Herrington’s earlier credits include the wonderfully inventive, latter day Western in rock clothing RoadHouse. Hard to believe but, unfortunately, true.
Review originally published in Film And Video – The Magazine.