Price Of Glory

on March 31, 2000 by Wade Major
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   The persistence of boxing-themed stories in American cinema--even in the shadow of such disparate triumphs as the "Rocky" films and "Raging Bull"--testifies to a certain populist affection for the sport that far transcends its historically spotty ability to sustain a dramatic narrative. Two recent releases--the Oscar-nominated "The Hurricane" and the roundly panned "Play it to the Bone"--also serve as a reminder that the affection is no automatic guarantee of either quality or success. Nor have independent films been immune to the pugilistic bug, as seen at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival where the female boxing-themed "Girlfight" received the Grand Jury Prize. Just where all of this places "Price of Glory" is a bit uncertain. Ostensibly an independent film, the movie reeks of studio pretensions, an old-fashioned by-the-numbers family melodrama that culls its various elements from a variety of similar efforts, most notably "Boyz N the Hood" and "Selena." The result, though polished and professional, ultimately relies on too many stock situations to evoke the desired emotional impact, a deficiency that is likely to take its toll in the one area where independent films can least afford it: word of mouth.
   Jimmy Smits stars as Arturo Ortega, a one-time promising boxer determined to vicariously redeem his own shattered dreams through the success of his three sons--Sonny (Jon Seda of "Selena" and TV's "Homicide: Life on the Streets"), Jimmy (Clifton Collins Jr.) and the prodigiously talented youngest, Johnny (newcomer Ernesto Hernandez). Having raised them practically from birth to be champion fighters, Arturo knows that he has a dynasty in the making and exhibits little tolerance for anyone or anything that is not central to the family goal. It's a fixation which naturally leads to friction with at least two of the sons as they grow impatient with their father's plans for building their careers. It's only a matter of time before the friction extends to Arturo's relationship with his wife, Rita (Maria Del Mar), who voices concern not only with her husband's treatment of their sons, but with the toll that his obsession takes on his own soul.
   All the usual obligatory boxing film stereotypes are also on display--from the arrogant "champ" (Louis Mandylor) to the crooked promoter (Ron Perlman) and his slimy lackey (Paul Rodriguez). In view of such handicaps it's actually a wonder that the film holds together as well as it does, a credit to Jimmy Smits and first-time director Carlos Avila, an award-winning short filmmaker. It's enough, in fact, to wish that Avila and his cast had been given better material with which to work. Unfortunately, what they have to work with is a mostly derivative genre piece by former New York Times boxing reporter Phil Berger, a drama less interested in people who happen to be boxers than in boxers who happen to be people. Starring Jimmy Smits, Jon Seda, Clifton Collins, Jr., Maria Del Mark, Sal Lopez, Louis Mandylor, Danielle Camastra,Ernesto Hernandez, Paul Rodriguez and Ron Perlman. Directed by Carlos Avila. Written by Phil Berger. Produced by Moctesuma Esparza, Robert Katz and Arthur E. Friedman. A New Line Cinema release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for violence, language and brief drug content. Running time: 114 min
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