In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_southside_with_you

Southside With You

Southside with You builds its emotional richness by coasting on the charisma of its two leads as they carefully navigate each other’s personality quirks and…

Thumb_dont_breathe

Don't Breathe

Don’t Breathe gets a little less interesting as it proceeds to its inevitable conclusion, but it works so well up to that point that your…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Tough Enough

  |  

There were articles in all the papers a few years ago about Tough Man Contests, a brilliant method of exploiting saloon fighters and street-corner brawlers. A promoter comes to town, rents a hall and says he wants to find the toughest man in town. Every macho drunk for miles around signs up. On the appointed night, the tough guys climb into the ring and hammer each other, and the winner gets a cash prize and a chance to move on to the semifinals.



The genius of Tough Man contests is that they combine the violence of prize-fighting, the buffoonery of pro wrestling, the show business of Roller Derby and the chance to see local guys making idiots out of themselves. Given all the energy expended annually in saloon brawls, it was probably only a matter of time until someone found a way to package it.

"Tough Enough" is a nice little movie about the Tough Guy contests. It's sneaking into town during the media barrage for "Return of the Jedi," and it's likely nobody will even hear about it, but it's a goofy entertainment that has some good moments and a couple of interesting characters. The movie stars Dennis Quaid as a would-be country singer who signs up for a contest to get money to pay the rent. Stan Shaw is a local kid who gets eliminated in an early round and stays on as Quaid's trainer. And the late Warren Oates turns up as the originator and promoter of the Tough Man empire.

The movie's really two stories in one. The most obvious story involves the fights themselves, and the movie's major flaw is that is has too many fight scenes -- so much that it repeats itself and we lose interest (the "Rocky" pictures always saved the best fight for the last). It's the secondary story that's more interesting -- the story about Quaid and his discontented wife, Shaw and his ringside quarterbacking, and Oates and his con man's dream.

The screenplay, by John Leone, tries to slip as much quirky characterization as possible in between the prizefight scenes and there are nice little dialogue touches in the movie and quiet, funny little moments that show somebody was thinking.

One of my favorite scenes is a locker room confrontation between Quaid and Oates. The promoter tells him he's going to lose the big $100,000 fight. It's not so much a fix as a sure thing: There's no way Quaid can beat the bruiser he's up against. This scene could have been played as a showdown with an oily con man. Instead, the Oates character takes the situation in a direction we don't anticipate.

I also liked the scenes between Quaid and Shaw and especially Shaw's quick, comic advice from ringside. These scenes made me want to know more about the characters and less about the endless parade of Tough Man contestants.

The movie also introduces a couple of female characters; Carlene Watkins plays Quaid's wife as a boringly one-dimensional scold, and the magnetic Pam Grier is thrown away in yet another disappointing role, as Shaw's wife. "Tough Enough" never quite breaks out of its prizefight cliches, but it's fun anyway, and there are moments when it really works.



Popular Blog Posts

Hollywood Gave Up on You: The Summer Movies of 2016

A look back at how this summer's best offering, Netflix's "Stranger Things," makes the failure of this season's block...

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

No Matter Where You Go, Here It Is: "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension" Hits Blu-ray

A celebration of the cult classic "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension," in light of the film'...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus