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1 rating: -3.0
A movie

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Director: Lee Daniels
Genre: Drama, Action, Adventure
Release Date: July 21, 2006
MPAA Rating: R
1 review about Shadowboxer

Was This Movie Supposed to Have a Deeper Meaning?

  • Dec 28, 2007
  • by
Pros: Nothing...

Cons: Everything...

The Bottom Line: Shadowboxer is an apt name for this movie, because half way through the film it knocks itself out!

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

Like a few other notable actors Cuba Gooding Jr.’s acting career has spiraled downward since he won an Oscar; in his case for Best Supporting Actor in the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire opposite Tom Cruise. Since that movie, Cuba has starred in a succession of sub-par movie offerings, including A Murder of Crows, Instinct, Rat Race, Snow Dogs, Boat Trip, and the 2005 train wreck or a film, Shadowboxer, wherein he starred opposite Helen Mirren.


Helmed by first-time director by Lee Daniels (producer of Monsters Ball)—who also acts in the movie—Shadowboxer is the (very badly written) story of two assassins; namely Mikey portrayed by Gooding Jr. (Boyz in The Hood, Losing Isaiah, The Tuskegee Airman), and Rose portrayed by the aforementioned Helen Mirren (Excalibur, Prime Suspect, Calendar Girls). Mikey and Rose live together and are lovers. Rose used to date Mikey’s stereotypical abusive father until she shoot him, whilst he was beating 10-year-old Mikey for crying after his mother is killed by, you-guessed-it: his father. So now Mikey and Rose are together…

Mikey and Rose (who is dying of cancer) are now hired assassins in an unnamed American city. They are contracted to kill Vicki portrayed by Vanessa Ferlito (24, Spider-Man 2, CSI: NY) wife of Clayton portrayed by Stephen Dorff (Space Truckers, Blade, .45). Clayton is your garden variety bad guy who wants his (pregnant) wife dead because she may have slept with another guy.

Mikey and Rose arrive at Clayton’s mansion, kill all of the hired help with cold calculated detachment, but then Rose comes upon Vicki whose water breaks just as she is about to be shot, and Rose relents. Not only relents, but let’s Vicki live and delivers the baby. Shortly thereafter Rose calls in Dr. Don (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who drags along his girlfriend Precious (Mo’Nique – The Parkers); Dr. Don makes sure everything is right and ready with the new baby.

Surprise, surprise, the three shack up with very predictable results.

My Thoughts

First time screenwriter William Lipz apparently never met a cliché or stereotype he didn’t like, especially when it comes to Black Americans. All of the Black characters in this movie are right out of the So-This-is-What-Black-Americans-are-Really-Like Handbook, no doubt written by a member (or members) of the KKK, or by Supreme Court Justice Clearance Thomas; take your pick. Shadowboxer is grossly insulting to Black Americans, which on its face is incredible, given the number of noteworthy Black American entertainers in the film. Besides those already mention, there is the extremely offensive Neisha portrayed by Macy Gray. Neisha is Vicki’s BFF and the woman never heard a swear word she couldn’t work in to an almost unintelligible sentence. And of course she drives a broken down second-hand car, is always high, and will sleep with any man who offers her a drink, or pays her the slightest bit of attention.

And then there’s Precious: big, black, obnoxious, and on a perpetual high, always disrespecting her man the good Doctor Don, whom she put through medical school, and of course later catches doing it with another (black) woman who shows no shame or regret for her transgression (insert cat-fight here). And finally young Mikey’s father (Darnell Williams) is a walking, talking violent stereotype and the media’s favorite kind of Black man, a loser/abuser.

And then there Cuba who, like any good Mandingo Warrior type spends a fair portion of Shadowboxer sans clothes. After a while I tired of looking at his behind; I couldn’t help thinking to myself: “at least be bold and show us the front and lend some authenticity to this otherwise fake movie.” And poor Mikey has no mind or life of his own; for whatever reason he is stuck obeying Rose’s every command, kowtowing to her every whim as thought this were 1805 and she were the mistress of the Big house; please!

Setting aside the insulting representation of Black people in this film for the moment, the rest of Shadowboxer plays as though it were taken from the Hollywood book of inner-city script writing; i.e. there isn’t an original thought or premise in the movie. The end result is very predictable and altogether goofy and boring movie; even the sad attempts at sex are poorly written, shot and acted. And those between Gooding Jr. and Mirren were just un-watchable.

One third of the way through Shadowboxer I wondered aloud what fine actors like Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr. were doing in this insipid, horrible, stupid, and insulting little film? Of course it was a rhetorical question, but I would have been happy with an answer.

In the final analysis much of Shadowboxer is just too involuntarily goofy, insulting, and stupid to be taken seriously. And let's face it when was the last time any movie Stefan Dorff was in—outside of Blade—actually made a box office dent, or was worth the price of admission? Shadowboxer is an apt name for this movie, because half way through the film it knocks itself out!


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: None of the Above
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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