Play it to the Bone

Play It To the Bone, directed by Ron Shelton, is a Woody Harrelson
movie in every sense of the term — that is it is full of macho posturing at
the same time that it attempts to make a joke (a rather tired joke by now, you
might think) about male stupidity. This is how Woody has been accustomed to
avoid the political correctness constabulary all his life, and he’s not about to
try anything different now. In this case we have not one but two male doofuses,
Mr Harrelson himself in the role of Vince Boudreau, a once potent middleweight
now on the verge of being washed up, and his best friend and starring partner,
um, sparring partner, Cesar, “El Califa” Dominguez (Antonio Banderas) who once
had a title shot but walked into a right hand in the first round that seems to
have put him out of contention for good.

A kind of corollary to this formula of glamorous male stupidity is that there
must be a tough, glamorous, sexy woman around to put the men in their place
while at the same time showing that she’s not above using them for her own
sexual purposes from time to time. This is the lovely but savvy Grace (Lolita
Davidovitch) who has been the lover of both men and who is still around to lend
them money or sexual favors as required. This scenario is what strikes Mr
Shelton, Mr Harrelson and, presumably, a fair number of suckers who will go to
see this movie, as the very dernier cri of hip. At least I assume so, for
I can’t see any other reason why anyone would want to go see it. The jokes are
tired, Miss Davidovitch, though a handsome woman, is not in the front rank of
Hollywood pulchritude anymore, and there is no plot to speak of.

A fight promoter, played by Tom Sizemore, finds himself without an undercard
to a big fight in Las Vegas and so calls up Vince and Cesar with the idea that
they will fight — wait for it — each other! I pause for your
gasps of admiration. Most of the film consists of their verbal sparring in the
car (Grace’s car) on the way to Vegas. Grace, I may have mentioned, gives them
both a ride from time to time. This is all very tedious, but it is meant to be
funny and touching and sad and even inspirational, but never quite manages to be
any of these things. In the end (you don’t mind if I tell you the end do you?)
the long awaited fight is inconclusive, but the heart that both fighters have
shown promises them more and better fights in the future.

That’s it. On the way to Vegas, the two guys and a gal pick up Leah (Lucy
Liu), another female, but the gesture in the direction of pairing the characters
off isn’t followed through. Grace is naturally a bit of a hard puncher herself
and Leah turns out to have a glass jaw — though not before she has serviced
Vince as earnest of her own coolness, but for no other detectable reason. The
moral focus of the film is always on Grace, who is naturally the superior of
these two broken down pugs who continue to compete for her rather motherly
affection. Her secret is that, for all her tartness of tongue and superiority of
brainpower, she really does love them. Both. Though she won’t tell them

She does go so far as to tell each of them that he is the better
lover — and that he is likely to lose to the other in the ring. This helps
to keep them on their toes and demonstrates the female wiliness and cleverness
that must always be a given to stupid men, though those of us who are slightly
less stupid than Vince and Cesar may wonder why, if she is so smart, she still
hangs around with these dunderheaded thugs. In the end, I assume, we are meant
to admire her feminine soft-heartedness as much as the two guys’ masculine
boorishness. More power to you if you can do it, but I can’t.

Discover more from James Bowman

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Similar Posts