“What’s better: stealing, starving, or fighting?”
Shortly after a petty criminal (Paul Newman) is sent back to prison for deserting the army, he begins work as a part-time boxer for a promoter (Everett Sloane) and falls for a beautiful young woman (Pier Angeli) who helps him settle down — but can he escape his troubled past when a former associate (Robert Loggia) comes back to ask for a favor?
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Paul Newman Films
- Pier Angeli Films
- Robert Wise Films
- Sal Mineo Films
Seven years after helming The Set-Up (1949) with Robert Ryan, director Robert Wise made another boxing film — this one based on the story of real-life boxer Rocky Graziano. Paul Newman got a lucky break due to tragic circumstances when James Dean died before shooting began and he took over the lead, which proved to be his breakthrough role. Indeed, Newman is highly convincing as the troubled young man who stumbles into an accidental career in boxing, after learning to survive both his father’s abuse during childhood and a rough life on the streets. Less convincing is his marriage to Angeli, whose interest in Newman despite her abhorrence for fighting of any kind (?!) is insufficiently explored. The cinematography is atmospheric throughout, and the boxing sequences are well-done — but there ultimately isn’t enough to this rise-to-fame story to recommend it as must-see viewing other than for Newman or Angeli fans. Watch for Sal Mineo in a small role as Newman’s teenage buddy, who reappears later in the film.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Paul Newman as Rocky
- Atmospheric cinematography
- Well-filmed boxing sequences
No, but it’s worth a look for Newman’s breakthrough performance.