Shadowboxer (2005)

Rating: C

Dir: Lee Daniels
Star: Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Ferlito, Helen Mirren, Stephen Dorff

This odd piece, from the producer of Monster’s Ball, almost got buried on its release, despite the presence of some serious names in the cast. I can see why, because it’s the kind of film that almost seems to be trying to make you dislike it, by pushing the envelope in a variety of ways. Mirren plays terminally-ill hit-woman Rose, who rejects her final mission when she discovers target Vickie (Ferlito), the wife of vicious gangster Clayton (Dorff), is pregnant – and her waters choose that moment to break. Instead, Rose rescues Vickie, and together with her stepson/lover Mikey (Gooding Jr.), they set up home together, with the newborn baby boy. Needless to say, Clayton is less than pleased when he discovers his orders have not been carried out.

I was hoping for an action-packed extravaganza. Not quite. This is more about the relationships between the characters, most of which are definitely unusual, in one way or another. It takes place over an extremely long time-span, which isn’t entirely convincing, but is probably necessary for the film to make its circular point: what turned Mikey into the man he is today, is entirely capable of being carried on by the next generation. That makes sense, but it’s a shame that Rose exits the film in the middle, as thanks to Mirren, she is easily the most intriguing character. I’ve now certainly seem more of Cuba Gooding’s butt than I ever wanted to, and that goes double for Dorff’s dick: nice to see he practices safe sex though. While the decent performances certainly keep this watchable, they aren’t enough to make this more than an unpleasant curiosity.