The popularity of former boxer George Foreman in the late 20th century as a TV pitchman for a series of cooking products has enabled a collective amnesia. That is, we have forgotten how extraordinary his sports career was. Boxing has given us many fighters who have won world champion titles more than once. But Foreman won his first heavyweight title fight in 1973. And after a long period where he vowed to lose interest in the sport, he came back and won another title in 1994, at age 45.
Wow – sounds like someone should make a movie out of that. Too bad “Big George Foreman,” directed by George Tillman, Jr., is so shockingly flat. Subtitled ‘The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World’, it’s a film with its heart in the right place and sense of drama nowhere to be seen. It begins with Foreman’s hunger and rage-driven childhood. Foreman, played by the charismatic Khris Davis in a decades-long portrayal, is recruited into a job program and finds a mentor and trainer in Doc Broadus (Forest Whitaker, who does his understated best with a character no more or less underdeveloped than any others). others here). George, who can punch like no other boxer, moves from strength to strength almost unconsciously.
Until the fight against Muhammad Ali in Zaire, in which Ali snatched the heavyweight crown from Foreman. Depicted in world-historical terms in the 1997 documentary When We Were Kings, it is depicted here as a career disaster for Foreman: his first loss, one that he had to deal with heavily.
Plot twist: Foreman found God and gave up boxing to preach. With a second wife, he started a new family and established a youth center, which included a room dedicated to his former rival Ali. But a series of business calamities—shown here as the fault of the single lousy and alcoholic college friend he’d put in charge of his finances—forced him to take up the gauntlets again.
All of these events and more are portrayed with an apparent undercurrent of we-have-to-cram-too-common jitters, and that’s not even the worst of it. The script, by the director and Frank Baldwin, is a thicket of dialogue clichés filled with exchanges like “I want you” and “You got me!” The choreography of the fight scenes is uninspired. They were shot, like so many boxing scenes now, with a strong “Raging Bull” influence and a profound misunderstanding of Scorsese’s approach in that movie. His slow motion/fast motion alternation and camera-practical-in-glove shots were not intended to convey exciting action, but to accentuate the brutal corporal punishment boxers give and receive. Not only does the movie fail to do Foreman justice, it leaves Davis and the rest of the attractive cast on the ropes.
Big George Foreman: The Amazing Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World
Rated PG-13 for sports violence. Running time: 2 hours 9 minutes. In theatres.