You never heard of this, I suppose. I never did I
until I popped it in. It's a relentlessly grim boxing drama - sort of.
When Donnie Rose was a young man of 17, he went to prison for beating another
young man so brutally it left him mentally and physically handicapped for life.
Donnie is white. His victim is black. Nine years later, Donnie is out, and he's
a different man, but the only place left for him to go is the same violent and
racist neighborhood that created him. At the other end of town, the black
community still wants revenge. The instrument of justice will be a devastatingly
talented champion boxer who challenges Donnie to a match that Donnie's family
and peers won't let him refuse.
The father of Donnie's victim (Danny Glover) waited nine years to avenge his
son's fate at the hands of Donnie, but when the two men finally meet they
realize they they are the only two sane people in a world filled with bloodlust.
The father used to be a boxer himself, and knows the champ's weaknesses, so he
agrees to help Donnie acquire enough boxing skills to survive the match. Their
unlikely partnership makes them outcasts from their own groups.
The film's climax is the big battle between Donnie and the champ in the
This film had the potential to be a disaster. It's treading on well-worn
thematic ground, and it seems too convenient that the father of the victim just
happens to be a brilliant boxing trainer. Despite those liabilities, it manages
to avoid the minefield of clichés and it strikes exactly the right balance
between serious themes and intriguing narrative.
The director managed to deliver a solid and affecting drama almost entirely on the
shoulders of Danny Glover, who gave the film a veneer of professionalism and
authenticity in a role that could easily have been misplayed because it required
him to start with great anger, then experience an epiphany, then undergo a
significant character shift without losing sight of the fact that he was helping
the man who once beat his own son into retardation. Glover's quiet, understated
dignity matched up well with the laid-back Rossif Sutherland, who played the
part of Donnie. The two men had very little dialogue, so they needed to convey a
lot with looks and body language, and they pulled it off.
I also like very much how the writer brought the boxing match to an end using
none of the possible outcomes you can imagine. The temptation must have been great to give in to boxing movie clichés, but the
author found another path which derived naturally from the previous events in
I haven't been a great fan of director Clement Virgo in the past. I thought
that Lie With Me was basically just a soul-dead sexploitation movie and a
massive misfire. Even the explicit sexuality wasn't very sexy. But I have
revised my opinion of the director based upon this film. In terms of resources
he had nothing to work with except Danny Glover. There wasn't much of a budget,
and the rest of the cast was a roster of nobodies, but Virgo had Glover and a
good script, and he built upon them well.
Variety called it "intelligent" and "compelling," albeit unmarketable. The
Hollywood Reporter called it "wise" and "stirring." I agree with all of those
adjectives, unfortunately including the unmarketable part. It's a quiet,
dignified, complex low-budget Canadian indie movie with no big stars, just the sort of film which plays to
empty theaters. Very few people will ever see this film, but those who look for
a worthwhile serious drama may find it a real diamond in the rough.