Sunday, February 9, 2014
THE GREAT WHITE HYPE (1996)
Directed By: Reginald Hudlin
Written By: Ron Shelton & Tony Hendra
Cinematography By: Ron Garcia
Editor: Earl Watson
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Jeff Goldblum, Peter Berg, Damon Wayans, Jamie Foxx, Salli Richardson, Jon Lovitz, Cheech Marin, Michael Jace, Corbin Bernsen, John Rhys-Davies, Rocky Carroll, A.J. Johnson, Reno Wilson, Art Evans
When the champ's promoter, Rev. Sultan, decides something new is needed to boost the marketability of the boxing matches, he searches and finds the only man to ever beat the champ. The problem is that he isn't a boxer anymore and he's white. However, once Rev. Sultan convinces him to fight, he goes into heavy training while the confident champ takes it easy and falls out of shape
This film aims high and comes close to achieving it's greatness before faltering out. As it tries to be a great con man comedy only behind the scenes of sports and representation. So more of a grand scheme. The only problem is that you commonly see the twists coming
The film is supposed to be satire, but comes off more as misogynistic low brow comedy. That at times seems to try to push the envelope, except comes off more offensive then anything.
Ron Shelton has expressed distaste for the film because his script was completely revised by comedian Tony Hendra.
This figures that Ron Shelton was the original writer of the film. As most of his scripts revolve around sports though are more slice of life and hard edged stories, Usually in some way, Shape or form involve a con of some sort.
The film is so filled with characters it also might have been better handled as a series or at least a plot line on the defunct HBO series of the time ARLI$$. That is one thing I admire about the film. While there is a intricate plot the film more revolves around the characters, their machinations and the politics they are constantly in to come out ahead or at best the least unscathed.
None of the characters are likeable and they don't have to be. Though it's easy to hate almost all of them. Our main protagonist is supposed to be Jeff Goldblum, to a degree. As he is introduced into this world and is supposed to be standing for something, Yet so easily rather quickly sells out. While that hardly surprises us, The film could have kept us on edge a bit.
Since the film has so much on it's mind. It doesn't have much time to stretch any storyline or character.
There are plenty of characters, who while fun could have been shortened or dropped completely Jon Lovitz's character for instance easily. At least then minor characters who are introduced with grand fanfare such as Salli Richardson's who actually seem important and fun wouldn't end up underused and just in the background. She could have added a different and more thorough dynamic, other than mostly sex appeal and flirtation. Giving the film a much needed diverseness and not seeming purely misogynistic.
Samuel l. Jackson is great I this film as this is easily a Larger than life character who could have been a franchise one. Obviously inspired a bit by Don King. No matter what he is always the smartest guy in the room as many try to stab him in the back or double deal him. He is always on top and two steps ahead. This was the first film where he seemed to be riding on his star power and hype from PULP FICTION.
Jamie Foxx is the only other actor who gets to stand out even if it is a minor role he makes the best of it.
Jeff Goldblum does the best he can and makes his character work through really there isn't much to him other then being a plot device.
Damon Wayans has nothing to really do as he champ. He is a gifted comedian not only physically b also verbally. Yet they have him pretty much stay quiet and sit for most of the film. So his part is more of a symbol rather than a role a gifted comedian needs to take. He is more of just another star name in the cast. For that matter you could have just cast a no name and let this be his big break.
Peter Berg, is all over the place as his character isn't written that well and broad comedic characters are obviously not his forte. As wild as his character is, He also never makes any sense most of the time.
While the film brings up many good points about money, business, sex and race in America and also uses those points to it's advantage. The film also comes out flat a lot of times.
I saw this film in a theater with my mother and I remember laughing a bunch, but still coming out of the film very disappointed. At the time the show NEW YORK UNDERCOVER was on the air and really popular and the star of the show Malik Yoba was in the audience and half the time during the movie the audience kept looking back to see if he was laughing to make sure they could to. Definitely a weird experience though he seemed to enjoy the movie.
The film has a bunch of promise that seems to fizzle as it builds up. I can deal with hard core scenes of degradation and though this film is pretty clean when it comes to actually showing the bad behavior the language and suggestions make the whole endeavor much more lurid then they need to be. Leaving the film to truly live up to it’s title