[Screen It]

(2000) (Jimmy Smits, Jon Seda) (PG-13)

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Drama: A proud and determined father tries pushing his three boxing sons to success in the sport.
Arturo Ortega (JIMMY SMITS) is a proud, Arizona family man who wishes for his three young sons to succeed in boxing, a sport in which his earlier attempts at success failed due to mismanagement. As such, Arturo acts somewhat like a dictator while training them, something that worries his loving wife, Rita (MARIA DEL MAR).

Even so, the boys become proficient and after many years of training, have become competitors in their own right. There's Sonny (JON SEDA), the oldest and apparently most likely to succeed although he's interested in getting married and starting a family; Jimmy (CLIFTON COLLINS JR), the middle son whose lack of discipline and rebellious nature constantly frustrate Arturo; and finally Johnny (ERNESTO HERNANDEZ), the youngest son who seemingly has what it takes to be a champion despite his young age.

It's the latter who draws the attention of local, big time boxing promoter Nick Everson (RON PERLMAN) and his assistant, Pepe (PAUL RODRIGUEZ). Everson can smell Johnny and Sonny's potential, but Arturo refuses to allow anyone else to manage them. Even so, as the young men progress in the sport, yearn to break free from their father's control over their lives and careers, and ultimately succumb to unhealthy sibling rivalry, tensions begin to mount.

Simultaneously hoping for his sons to succeed while also vicariously living through their potential success, Arturo does what he can to keep his family together as the lure of big paydays and the effects of familial strife threaten to destroy everything he's worked so hard for.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
In boxing, and in many other sports and professions, there are those who excel at their chosen careers and become world famous, and then those who might be proficient at what they do, but don't quite have what it takes to reach that level of success and fame.

Those in the latter group might have the knowledge, skills and/or physical prowess that could collectively give the layperson the impression that they should easily excel at their sport. Yet, they usually lack the strong personality, footwork and/or punching power to become champions and stand out from the competition.

The same holds true for films, whether they're about boxing or not. For every "Rocky" or "Raging Bull," there are countless cinematic challengers - some heavyweights and some not - that for any number of reasons are pummeled by the critics and/or moviegoers, end up collapsing to the mat, and subsequently fade into oblivion.

For all of its good intentions and the anticipated argument that it's not just a boxing film (don't they all say that?), "Price of Glory" doesn't have a prayer of becoming the "world champion" of its weight division. It will also probably receive the one-two combination from many critics and viewers who will quickly send it reeling to the video store shelves in far less than fifteen rounds.

Despite a moderately compelling story and the necessary "skills" to succeed, the film just doesn't have what it takes to stand out, let alone become a spectator favorite. Written by former New York Times sports columnist Phil Berger, the film somewhat hinges on the overriding question of whether Arturo, the Mexican-American patriarch of the Ortega family, is aiming for boxing glory for himself, his sons, or some sort of combination of both.

Competently, but not spectacularly played by Jimmy Smits (TV's "NYPD Blue," "L.A. Law"), the character and that nebulous quality aren't the plot's sole driving force, but they're clearly a few of the more major things that are designed to maintain one's interest during the production.

What the film fails to do, however, is get the viewer emotionally involved in that or any other part of the story. Granted, it's rather difficult nowadays to do so with the actual boxing scenes since a) they've been done so many times before and b) the outcome of the obligatory final match is usually pretty much of a given. While the boxing scenes here are generally well staged, they're certainly far from riveting and never manage to get the adrenaline pumping.

With the lackluster physical side being a foregone conclusion, the family dynamics and business side of the sport are all first-time director Carlos Avila is left with to pump up the proceedings. Unfortunately, neither provides for many notable fireworks.

Actors Ron Perlman ("Alien Resurrection," TV's "Beauty and the Beast") and stand-up comedian turned actor Paul Rodriguez ("Made in America," "Born in East L.A.") serve as the plot's external complications from the business end of the story. While they deliver competent performances, their characters don't add the necessary level of antagonism to make the audience root that much more for the protagonists to succeed.

That leaves the family-related scenes to carry the film and for a while, they manage to do just that. With Jon Seda ("Selena," "Dear God"), Clifton Collins Jr. ("The Replacement Killers," "187") and newcomer Ernesto Hernandez credibly playing a trio of boxing brothers, the film sets up the obligatory family dynamics of them dealing with their determined father.

While that competently, but not spectacularly works for some of the picture, after a while the filmmakers let the film slip into the "made for TV movie" realm where unnecessary levels of melodrama turn it into something resembling a boxing-based soap opera. As such, later developments feel contrived and occasionally episodic, all of which wouldn't be so bad had the film earlier connected with the audience on either an emotional or visceral level, but neither is the case here. The odd inclusion of rap songs doesn't help matters either, and only serves as a somewhat desperate and distracting, but unsuccessful attempt to give the film more of an edgy feel.

Too long at nearly two hours and lacking the appropriate and needed fireworks and/or emotional depth to make either its boxing and/or family scenes come alive and yank the viewer along for the ride, this film is like a mediocre boxer. It may know what it's supposed to do to succeed, but is too flat-footed, throws too many weak punches, and telegraphs most every move to the point that it will never have a chance of being seen as a champion. As such, "Price of Glory" rates as just a 4.5 out of 10.

Reviewed March 16, 2000 / Posted March 31, 2000

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