Rated: R For violence. Reviewed by: Frank and Chris Release date: March 6, 1992 Released by: Columbia TriStar
Gladiator is viewed from the perspective of Tommy Riley (James Marshall of Twin Peaks.) It is a surrealistic view of an illegal boxing empire run by corrupt promoters in Chicago.
The climax is billed as the battle between Riley and his black friend Lincoln (Cuba Gooding, Jr. of Boyz N The Hood.) The screenplay uses the illegal boxing ring as the only way out for poor kids in the ghetto. Boxing is used to replace the reality of drugs as the dangerous path to wealth and respect in old declining cities.
Tommy's arrival on the scene creates a Great White Hope character who Jimmy Horn (Brian Dennehy) a former contender and promoter of illegal boxing plans to take advantage of. Horn is the symbol of all evil. Noah (Ossie Davis) is a corner man with integrity who counsels the young fighters.
Filled with violent boxing scenes, blood, low blows and silly round house swings, the film carries the good vs. evil to such an extreme that it is silly at times. There appears to be good intent on the part of Director Rowdy Herrington, but the extremes are far too unrealistic. Belinda (Emily Marie Hooper), the 16-year-old mother of Lincoln's daughter, is a perfect parent, loving, caring and devoted to her child. Very few 16-year-old single mothers are so stable, but she is the good vs. evil of the illegal fights, which are the drugs the heroes use to rise economically.
The film is confusing, it is played as real but filled with symbols. As a real slice of life it is silly; as a symbolic metaphor for the plight of young people in poverty it may have something to say.