Body and Soul (1998) from Tuna

Body and Soul (1998) is a formulaic boxing film, so it fits the usual description:

A fighter with a lot of heart is after the championship belt. He has a faithful manager who gets screwed; he does some nice woman wrong; success goes to his head; then he is screwed by some syndicate. There are several variations on the ending.

Although this film fits within the prescribed outline, it manages a fresh approach.

Real boxing champ Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini plays a small town boxer with dreams of the big time. His friend and manager (Michael Chiklis) join him in a trip to Reno to go for the belt. Along the way, they pick up a hitchhiker (Jennifer Beals). She is clearly not as pure as the driven snow and is escaping something, but Mancini likes her, so he becomes part of the entourage. The lads manage to impress a formerly great trainer (Rod Steiger) , and it soon becomes evident that Mancini is genuinely good, so the local promoter (Joe Mantegna) decides to make a fortune on him. To help control the boxer, the promoter enlists a sexy babe (Tahnee Welch). Since the hitchhiker is still trying to get her head straight, the new babe moves in and starts to manipulate the boxer. Between the promoter and his designated babe, Mancini is carefully brought along to extract ever dime the promoter can get, and is eventually set up for an cakewalk title shot.

The fighter becomes a lounge lizard while making several lackluster title defenses, while his buddy/manager, who has become a loud-mouthed embarrassment, is not with him at ringside. When a good contender looms on the horizon, it is time for the lazy champ to get his act back together or lose the title. The promoter has positioned himself to make a killing from either result, but he expects Mancini to lose.

What makes this film a little different from the boxing formula is that we know everyone's intentions all along, and nobody is perfect. I found myself very involved in the film start to finish, and really cared about the characters. Chiklis narrates much of the story, but in a charming manner that did not distract. The film had an aura of believability that wasn't hurt by the fact that Mancini really was a world champion fighter. Even though the boxing scenes were absolutely authentic, the story didn't spend the entire running time in the ring, and along the way, even managed to display a lovely array of female body parts.



The ring girls, credited as Karlinda Aguilar, Cloissa A. Ream and Tamarah Kanogy, are wearing very abbreviated bikinis with t-backs.

Tiffany J. Wooster, Olivia Jardine and Bernice Dee show breasts in a hot tub at a party.

We have breasts from two uncredited show girls in a dressing room.

Kristen Shafer shows great rear nudity doubling for Tahnee Welch.

The Critics Vote ...

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The People Vote ...

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The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. I found it a very quick watch, and a worthy addition to a popular genre.

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