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The Brawler

By Chris Salce | January 21, 2019

The Brawler is not your typical boxing film. It does have the knockouts and the underdog theme, but this is a different kind of film. It’s a film that happens to be about a boxer which focuses on more than just his boxing career.

Most people may think that the Rocky films were inspired by Rocky Marciano, well that’s not entirely the case. The Brawler tells the story of the real man who inspired the Rocky saga, Chuck Wepner, who was a nobody that had the chance to go up against the greatest boxer in the world, Muhammed Ali. His rise to stardom and his fight with the greatest boxer that ever lived, inspired Sylvester Stallone to write the film Rocky. This is where The Brawler becomes more than just another boxing film.

In 1976, the first Rocky film would hit theaters and become an instant classic. The film would not only skyrocket Stallone’s career but it also helped out Chuck Wepner’s career greatly. A good portion of The Brawler focuses on Wepner’s life after the Rocky films. Wepner had new-found fame because of Stallone and Rocky and could now pull the “Rocky was inspired by me” card. Fame would get Wepner almost anything he wanted, including something he didn’t want, trouble.

“…the story of the real man who inspired the Rocky saga, Chuck Wepner…”

Now the film’s cast is something that has to be talked about. The cast is filled with familiar faces which include Zach McGowan, Amy Smart, Joe Pantoliano, Taryn Manning, William Lee Scott. It even included some actors that I have not seen in a while like Joseph D’Onofrio who appeared in the film A Bronx Tale,  Jason James Richter who was the kid from Free Willy and a surprise cameo by Burt Young who played the role of Paulie in the Rocky films. It almost became a thing of who was going to make a surprise appearance next. It added some more excitement for me while watching the film. With the very decent casting that the film had, there was also a couple of casting choices that I don’t agree with; these were the casting of Sylvester Stallone and Andre the Giant. The actors that played these real-life icons looked nothing like the real men they were portraying. The Stallone casting wasn’t a big deal for me at first since the actor was shot at angles that didn’t show his face much, but as the film goes on, the actor receives more screen time, and the unlikeness is noticeable. When it comes Andre the Giant, I was just thankful the actor only had seconds of screen time. Unfortunately, those castings weren’t the only issues I had with the film.

“…enjoyed that it was more than just a straight-up boxing film.”

The film had a number of technical issues with the sound and editing. Every once in a while it would sound as if the actors were screaming their dialogue straight into the mic and it occurred enough times that I was adjusting my volume while watching the film. When it comes to the editing, there would be scenes between two or more actors and the camera angles were a little add, which is mainly the director’s doing and it looks as though the editors tried to cover up the bad angles as best as they could, so it may be unfair for me to say that the issues were with the editing, rather than the camera angles.

The film’s tone also brought a different take on a film surrounding boxing. When it was supposed to have drama, the drama wasn’t felt all that much. Where it did standout is the comedy aspect of it. With all this being said, I did enjoy the film and I especially enjoyed that it was more than just a straight-up boxing film. I don’t think that the intentions of this film were to inspire like many films about boxers tend to do, but it was more to tell an interesting story, which I felt that it did.

The Brawler (2018) Directed by Ken Kushner. Written by Ken Kushner, Robert Dibella. Starring Zach McGowan, Amy Smart, Joe Pantoliano, Taryn Manning, Anthony Mangano, Joseph D’Onofrio, Jerrod Paige.

6 out of 10 stars

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  1. Mitch S says:

    Finally, a reviewer gets it. I think this, yet another telling of this story, was made because the first movie (“Chuck”) did not go into certain details that they wanted told. And certainly left out the Stallone being sued and the memorabilia case. So, even though the production value in “The Brawler” was low, it still has a good cast and they got to tell parts of his story that had to be left out the first go around. I liked it.

  2. Carlos Martinez says:

    I wonder how sly thinks about the film
    Made him look pretty bad in the movie.