(US); 2000; Rated R; 124 Minutes
Antonio Banderas: Cesar Dominguez
Woody Harrelson: Vince Boudreau
Lolita Davidovich: Grace Pasic
Tom Sizemore: Joe Domino
Lucy Liu: Lia
Produced by Stephen Chin, Kellie Davis and David
Lester; Directed and screenwritten by Ron Shelton
by DAVID KEYES
has apparently developed some kind of fixated obsession
with brutal physical violence, as seen by a truckload of
movies that have been released in the past few years. Most
of them draw their energy not from drama or story, but the
clutching of a fist and break of a bone; the recent "Fight
Club," for example, ditches every effort to be entertaining
for grotesque, creepy imagery that is often lurid and unrewarding
to the eyes of the viewer. Yet there has also been a strength
in the conviction of the events surrounding such occurrences
for certain pictures--one will not remember brief moments
of bloodshed in "The Hurricane," for instance, when matched
up against the dramatic surges provided by the film's stars.
The key to all of their success and failure is, in some
way, determined by the magnitude of the visuals and depth
of the substance. Violence can be amusing, to certain lengths,
but not without some sort of plot point to back it up.
is the deepest flaw of "Play It To The Bone," a road movie
about two boxers who are headed to Las Vegas for a fight
in which they must compete against each other. Certainly
stars Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson are the kind
of actors who can generate enough on-screen chemistry to
help enlighten any overly-thick material. But alas, the
script they are fed here is so incredibly misconceived that
even their performances are buried. And as for the violent
last scenes, which are never over-the-top, the immense battle
in the boxing ring is essentially anticlimactic, as if the
relationship between these two friends doesn't mean anything
when it comes down to the final moment. Exactly what did
director Ron Shelton want to say to his audience with this
thing? Nothing really, other than that people should be
expected to hurt each other for making a quick buck.
of the minor details are even dimwitted. When both Cesar
Dominguez (Antonio Banderas) and Vince Boudreau (Woody Harrelson)
have apparently struck a dead end in their boxing careers,
both get a call from promoters in Las Vegas, who confess
that the two expected heavyweight fighters cannot, for one
reason or another, attend the scheduled fight. If they manage
to make it to Las Vegas in six hours, they have a chance
at regaining their acclaim (not to mention splitting $100,000).
Cesar and Vince are, of course, very good friends; both
are not too fond of the idea of beating up on one another.
But heck, like so many movie characters before them, they
put money first, and friendship second.
first task is to get to Las Vegas from Los Angeles. But
do they fly to their destination? Heck no; that would only
defeat the purpose of a road movie. Instead, Cesar turns
to his girlfriend (which is, coincidentally, Vince's ex),
in hopes that they can borrow her car to get to where they
are needed. She has one of those old 1960s convertibles,
ideal for the road movie setup; afterwards, they set off
on their journey.
characters have as much depth as a pain of glass. The most
displeasing of these limited studies are the two leads,
Vince and Cesar. Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson are
both admirable actors, but they get completely shoveled
under the plot by typical one-dimensional qualities; it
is especially shallow when the script starts them out as
good friends, deteriorates the relationship, and makes them
complete enemies by the last act. Even Lucy Liu, who plays
a scene-stealing nymphomaniac, lacks much of the charm from
her persona on the rather humorous "Ally McBeal." There
is one moment when her character, an obvious wanton slut,
and Vince, a born-again Christian, do the nasty behind a
restaurant to the sound of gospel music playing on the soundtrack.
What is the significance of this, or any of the other sexual
overtones (there is also a series of flashbacks that take
place in between rounds at the end, in which both fighters
are thinking of nudists)?
the underlying theme that tries to support this structure
suggests that friendship is less important than money, and
one should pursue the latter no matter who will get hurt
along the way. In some of the final moments, there's an
awful lot of hurting too; Woody Harrelson, who has also
been in another Shelton film ("White Men Can't Jump"), commented
after wrapping up production that Banderas, in real life,
gave him a couple of hurtful punches while filming the scenes.
It is a necessity for any moviemaker to make on-screen displays
look as realistic as possible; unfortunately, whatever actually
went down between Banderas and Harrelson is a bit too extreme
for a movie like this. No two friends should fight each
other for money, much less "Play It To The Bone."
David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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