Don't you hate it when movie titles give away the entire plot of the film? Price of Glory metes out an exact market value upon the glory found in the boxing ring. According to hard-hitting Judge Nicholas Sylvain, it's not worth very much. He'll hurt you if you don't read his review.
For every dream there is a sacrifice.
The tale of a Latino "stone boxing patriarch," fighting his past and his own sons as he struggles to bring them to the championship boxing level that eluded him, Price of Glory suffers from casting deficiencies and plot predictabilities. Those who enjoy the movie should be well pleased by the disc put out by New Line, with a fine technical presentation and a decent set of extra content.
Facts of the Case
Arturo Ortega (Jimmy Smits) was once an up and coming boxer in Arizona, but his crooked manager and a fight against a far superior opponent quickly shattered his career. Now thirteen years later, married, with three sons, he works at an assembly line job and dreams of boxing glory for his children. Their training is unceasing and he pushes them so very hard his precise motivation is unclear, but even at early ages their successes are numerous. Sonny and Jimmy, the older of the three, are the "chosen" boxers, but to Arturo's surprise even their youngest brother, Johnny, demands to become a boxer as well.
As his sons age, differences begin to emerge. Jimmy is not as devoted or as talented as his father would wish, but Johnny blows everyone away. He is a fierce, cocky, and very deadly fighter, and so loyal to his father that no one will ever come between them. With his sons growing into adulthood, Arturo is approached by slick promoter Nick Everson (Ron Perlman) who offers huge sums for their contracts and subsequent title fights. Arturo is distrustful, preferring to rely upon his own talents to guide his sons to the championship level.
Money, ego, and family dynamics start to affect the Ortega family, wearing down bonds already strained by Arturo's single-minded devotion to boxing success. When tragedy strikes at the family, they must decide if they can hold together and fight to win a championship and make all of their sweat, suffering, and tragic loss have an enduring meaning.
Boxing is a sport that I haven't cared about for a long time, not since the retirement of a class act like Sugar Ray Leonard and the ascendancy of Mike Tyson. This once casual interest is mirrored by a lack of interest in cinematic boxing. Sure, I know about films like Raging Bull and Diggstown and even suffered through some of the Rocky films on cable, but I would not generally seek out a boxing movie on my own accord. With that in mind, I was curious to see how this "boxing family" movie turns out.
Price of Glory turns out to be a lukewarm piece of filmmaking. A solid family drama set in a boxing context, it often felt more like a movie made for TV. Not quite captivating, not quite boring, Price of Glory reaches for celluloid glory but falls well short. I did find an appreciation for the adult boxing matches, which are gifted with energetic audio, a colorful palette and mobile, fluid photography. Price of Glory also presents questions that it declines to answer directly. Is Arturo driving his sons into boxing, or nurturing their desires? Is he doing what he thinks is best for them, or simply fighting to reclaim is own lost glory through them?
Though stuck with the stock character of a long-suffering boxing widow, Maria del Mar ("TekWar") is a vital, warmly human mother. Standing with her on the positive side of the acting ledger, the group of likable young actors playing the youngest set of the Ortega brothers (Ulises Cuadra, Mario Esquivel, and Gilbert Leal) give their young characters each a distinct flavor. Their older counterparts are nearly as good, with one notable exception. As Johnny Ortega, Ernesto Hernández (who apparently now has a movie catering career!) possesses an exquisite intensity and intimidating look perfectly matched to the utterly loyal, bad-ass youngest son. Clifton Collins Jr. (Traffic, The Replacement Killers) is similarly attuned, giving his troubled middle son role the strength and vulnerabilities it needs.
The anamorphic video transfer is top-notch. The picture is crisp and clean, without appreciable dirt or defects and blessedly free of digital enhancement artifacts. Colors are properly saturated and vibrant, black levels are solid, though the sharpness is good to middling.
The audio track is a lower-octane sort of a 5.1 mix, as might be expected for this sort of a dramatic film. The sound is primarily located forward, though the front soundstage is pleasantly broad and deep with decent channel separation. Rear surrounds are only used for ambient support during the "big time" boxing matches and the subwoofer is taxed very little.
For a less well-known film like Price of Glory, the set of extra content is quite welcome. In what seems to be a trend these days, the deleted scenes also have optional director's commentary. Kudos to New Line and director Carlos ávila, as the content of a deleted scene often is as interesting as knowing the director's feelings for and reasons for cutting such a scene. The director's commentary is average, though Carlos ávila is rather too sedated and prone to leaving significant gaps. The theatrical trailer and filmographies for the director and many cast members fills out the extras. As with all typical New Line releases, the unfortunate snapper case is used. Menus are unfortunately static and silent.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
While I admit that Jimmy Smits (My Family, "NYPD Blue," "L.A. Law") has an undeniable natural style, I kept waiting for him to exude the forceful, compelling persona his role demanded. Merely adequate is the best I can say for his efforts. He tries, again and again, but never in convincing fashion. Far further out to sea is Jon Seda ("Homicide: Life on the Street," I Like It Like That), whose range and emoting would give particleboard a run for its money. Finally, Paul Rodriguez insists on continuing an acting career. Perhaps he should stick closer to comedy if this is how he does in "serious" films?
The screenplay does better early on, when we are learning about the Ortega family, its internal dynamics, its complex relationship with boxing, and so on. When the sons grow up and we enter the heart of the story, it all begins to go wrong. That the close-knit family would be torn apart by father-son tensions was nearly as predictable as the heart-rending tragedy that eventually brings them back together, but perhaps the happy Rockyesque ending is the worst offender in this regard. The two-hour film builds to this dramatic ending, but I felt none of the expected emotional payoff, having lost interest at about the point I saw it coming. I do give Price of Glory credit for a universal story told in a culturally specific context, but the writing ends up far short of its entertainment goal.
Though Price of Glory is not a stand-out as a drama, it will appeal to those looking for a quiet family story devoid of excessive language or sexuality and for anyone who wants a well photographed boxing movie. Neither a must-rent nor a don't-rent, be sure you watch it before deciding if it is worth a ($25 retail) purchase.
Unable to reach a definitive verdict, the Court declares a mistrial as to Price of Glory. New Line is excused with the thanks of the Court for another quality presentation.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
• Deleted Scenes
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