Fighting Tommy Riley

"Very Good"

Fighting Tommy Riley Review


As you sit down to watch Fighting Tommy Riley, you may be thinking that the world doesn't need another boxing drama, and the first few minutes of the film, which introduce us to a down-on-his-luck boxer and a down-on-his-luck trainer, won't dissuade you of that notion. But then the movie starts to float like a butterfly and, more important, sting like a bee, and you realize that there's more going on here than stale Rocky tropes.

Young Tommy (J.P. Davis) suffered a traumatic loss at the 1999 Olympic Trials, and he hasn't been the same since. Now he fights for a few bucks here and there at seedy L.A. gyms. It's at one such gym where he catches the eyes of the unlikely duo of Marty (Eddie Jones) and Diane (Diane Tayler). Marty, the gone-to-seed trainer, is a hugely obese high school teacher who suffers from near-crippling depression. Diane is a former student of his who has set up a boxing promotion business to give him something to live for. When they spot Tommy, they know they've found their next Great White Hope.

Tommy is eager to be taken under Marty's wing -- anything to escape from his seedy basement apartment and dead-end day job. They have some immediate success together, and plans are quickly made to stage a rematch with the boxer who beat Tommy back in 1999.

And then the cinematic rope-a-dope begins. Extremely subtle clues -- glances, body language, quick comments -- make you realize that Marty has a far more complicated history than he has explained to Tommy, and when Marty suggests that the best way to train for the fight is for him and Tommy to go -- alone -- up to his isolated mountain cabin for a month, you immediately think, "Uh, that may not be such a good idea, Tommy."

Sure enough, Marty couldn't be happier when he has Tommy all to himself (Tommy's pesky girlfriend is now hundreds of miles away), and with each rubdown, the sexual tension builds until an explosion becomes inevitable.

There are more fight scenes, of course, because this is a boxing movie, but things are never quite the same between the tortured Marty and the terribly confused and hurt Tommy again. Still, Tommy doesn't want to abandon Marty when a big-time promoter comes calling, and it's that test of loyalty that propels the second half of the film along.

Fighting Tommy Riley was a labor of love for Davis, who wrote the script, found the money, and must have done about a million sit-ups and pull-ups to make the movie happen. His Tommy is both more articulate and sharp than, say, Rocky, but strangely naïve at the same time. He's an interesting character. Jones has many great moments, too. His toughest challenge is to convey the torture of depression without going over the top, and he does it well.

You may come to Fighting Tommy Riley for the boxing, but you'll find much more to ponder than left jabs and right hooks. Like most good boxing flicks, it's a psychological study, too. After all, you gotta wonder why anyone ever steps into that ring.

Eh, you don't look so good, Tommy.



Fighting Tommy Riley

Facts and Figures

Run time: 109 mins

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Eddie O'Flaherty

Producer: Bettina Tendler O'Mara, Eddie O'Flaherty, J.D. Davis

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