A rousing sports drama based on a true story, Cinderella Man stars Russell Crowe as Depression-era boxer Jim Braddock. Married (to Renée Zellweger) with three kids, Braddock hits hard times when the stock market crashes and he breaks his hand. He can't box and he can barely work when his loyal manager (Paul Giamatti) gets him one last shot at glory. The result is predictable, but the scraps are never less than thrilling.
You'll be hard-pressed not to cheer after the first bone-crunching comeback bout. And it's testament to the storytelling skill of Ron Howard that every bloody blow brings the fear that the Cinderella Man may not make it. Howard managed the same neat trick (everyone knows the ending but you're excited anyway) with Apollo 13 and as with that film, this is a simple tale of decency in the face of adversity. It's a little too simple, really, to be tremendously memorable, and there's a questionable message in a subplot that suggests if you keep your head down and plug away you'll be OK (Braddock), but if you speak out (like Paddy Considine's dodgy Commie) then there's nothing down for you.
"CROWE MAKES A ONE-NOTE CHARACTER COMPELLING"
Crowe is at his best in the ring and while it's hardly surprising that he's a convincing bruiser, he also manages to make a rather one-note character compelling (the handout scene in the gentlemen's club is a tear-jerker). He's the pumping heart of a story that should be too good to be true but is actually too true to be really, really good.