Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I’ve discussed these choices I’ve had to make before when it comes to movie screenings.  Oft times, there will be a couple of screenings at the same time forcing me to choose one or another, or I’ve been sent to one when I’d rather see another.  A few months ago I was dispatched to see ‘John Tucker Must Die’ which almost caused me to end my own life, Ashanti aside.  Next door was the Lee Daniels directed ‘Shadow Boxer’ which I would have much rather seen, but I did what I was expected to do.  Fortunately, so many of my colleagues crapped on ‘Shadow Boxer’ that it made my time spent with ‘John Tucker Must Die’ seem somewhat tolerable, if only a little bit.  Now ‘Shadow Boxer’ has popped up at the vidoeplex and was delivered to my door in its shiny yellow Blockbuster envelope, so I popped it in with expectations fairly low.  Perhaps it’s a culmination of those low expectations and remembering how much I hated ‘John Tucker Must Die’ but honestly, I had a damn good time watching the incredibly sick, twisted and violent ‘Shadow Boxer’.

To say that Rose (Helen Mirren) and Mikey (Cuba Gooding Jr.) have a complicated relationship would be a bit of an understatement.  You see Rose has raised Mikey since he was seven years old after killing his abusive father, her lover, who had killed Mikey’s mom.  So this would essentially make Rose Mikeys mother, except for the fact that they are lovers.  Rose is also dying of cancer and they both are paid assassins.  A contract comes down to end the life of the wife of brutal crime lord Clayton (Stephen Dorff), which the two killers accept without batting an eye.  As job goes down, Rose and Mikey are cleaning the house with relentless precision until Rose comes face to face with Vickie (Vanessa Ferlito) and sees she’s with child.  Rose

hesitates, Vickie begs and her water breaks, Mikey walks in curious as to why she’s not dead yet.  Rose, feeling her mortality and some connection with God ends the hit on Vickie, much to Mikey’s dismay, and they birth the baby then sequester the mob wife and the child to safety.


Oddly enough, our assassins manage to convince the powers that be that the woman is indeed dead and life carries on with one of the oddest families of known record.  Unfortunately some years later, due to treacherous acts involving young Dr. Don (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who has been providing care for mother and child, and his girl Precious (Monique), the aforementioned powers that be are now fully aware of the existence of mother and child.  When bad people get upset at other bad people, the only possible result is bad things.  And this is what happens in the explosive conclusion to ‘Shadow Boxer’.


To say the least, ‘Shadow Boxer’ is out there, and I’m talking like Pluto, Neptune out there.  It’s Oedipus, it’s King Lear, it is Hamlet mixed in with some ‘Days of our Lives’ or something.  If your goal is to find a sympathetic character that you can latch onto, then good luck with that as even the children in the movie are of suspect moral character.  In what must be Cuba Gooding Jr.s’ never ending struggle to erase the stench of ‘Snow Dogs’ and ‘Boat Trip’, he acquits himself quite well as the doting son Mikey, who intimately follows his step mothers instructions, even in death.  He displays a definite child like quality which fully manifests itself when his mother is no longer around to guide him.  Of course the question is what kind of ‘mother’ is this Rose in the first place.  She’s taken a child who has witnessed the murder of both of his parents, raised him to be a killer and is having sex with him.  Then she places him into a situation in which she knows she won’t be around assist him in dealing with.  Played with gusto by Helen Mirren, who will probably have an Academy Award on her mantle for her performance in ‘The Queen’, is almost as good in this, in a role that is far less than Queen Elizabethian.  Perhaps Rose, worried about Mikey on his own, thought it necessary to provide him with another family to look after him when she was gone.


‘Shadow Boxer’ was one violent, sex driven flick.  I will admit that the next time I see Cuba Gooding’s naked ass again, be it 100 years from now, it will be way too soon.  Director Daniels truly stood convention on its head with this one, and he’s pretty much been vilified for it, though I can’t see why.  I see so many films, particularly independent features that are filled with absolutely nothing, it is refreshing to see something that at least tries to be unconventional, albeit to varying degrees of success.  ‘Shadow Boxer’ to put it in simple terms, was a trip.  But a trip I enjoyed.

Real Time Web