Big George Foreman goes the distance as a biopic
Director George Tillman Jr. returns to the biopic genre for his seventh feature in Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World from Columbia Pictures. Tillman and Frank Baldwin penned the script, adapted from a screen story by Tillman, Baldwin, and Dan Gordon.
The film is based on the remarkable true story of one of the greatest comebacks of all time and the transformational power of second chances. Fueled by an impoverished childhood, Foreman channeled his anger into becoming an Olympic Gold medalist and World Heavyweight Champion, followed by a near-death experience that took him from the boxing ring to the pulpit. But when he sees his community struggling spiritually and financially, Foreman returns to the ring and makes history by reclaiming his title, becoming the oldest and most improbable World Heavyweight Boxing Champion ever.
The film opens up with Foreman (Khris Davis) letting the audience know he died in 1977 after fighting Jimmy Young. We then go back to a young George growing up with his siblings in Houston's Fifth as his mother, Nancy (Sonja Sohn), struggles to make ends meet. Foreman decides to enlist in the Job Corps in his later teen years, where his size and temper catch the eye of Doc Broadus (Forest Whitaker), a former boxer turned youth counselor. Together the two go on a journey that encompasses everything from Olympic gold victories to boxing success and a crushing loss to Muhammad Ali (Sullivan Jones) at the Rumble In The Jungle.
The script for Big George Foreman is, in essence, a rags-to-riches story that hits all of the biopic tropes. However the film's strength is in the performance of Davis as Foreman. Recently seen in Space Jam: A New Legacy and Judas and the Black Messiah, Davis delivers a powerful performance as Foreman. His physical and emotional transformation is genuinely captivating without becoming ostentatious; Davis achieves this feat without prosthetics or over-the-top theatrics. His role in this film can be described as nothing other than a breakout performance.
Of course, Forest Whitaker and Sonja Sohn could do their roles in their sleep, so naturally, they deliver the goods. The rest of the supporting cast also have solid performances, particularly Sullivan Jones as Ali and Jasmine Matthews as Foreman's wife. Boxing purists will also enjoy seeing Archie Moore (Lawerence Gilliard Jr.) and Joe Frazier (portrayed by real-life boxer Carlos Takam) featured in the film.
Regarding the boxing scenes in the film, fight coordinator Darrell Foster keeps them realistic and puts us right in the ring action. Tilman makes a wise choice never to show a whole, instead choosing to show us highlights. Overall I did enjoy Big George Foreman despite a few gripes. Foreman was married four times before meeting his final wife, and it's glossed over in the film. There is also no mention of Don King in the movie, who played an integral part in "The Rumble in the Jungle."
Nevertheless, after successfully bringing the life stories of Carl Brasher and Biggie Smalls to the big, Tilman delivers another with Big George Foreman.
Final Grade: B