An Italian production starring two American dudes and a Frenchwoman, The Boxer—also known as Ripped-Off, among other titles—is a thoroughly disposable crime drama about that most familiar of topics, a pugilist who gets in trouble when gangsters ask him to throw a fight. The sorta-kinda interesting twist here is that the fighter isn’t aware he’s expected to lose on purpose. Instead, crooks pressure his manager, who stubbornly refuses to pass along the lose-or-else message. This decision costs the manager his life, and circumstances make the boxer the prime suspect in his manager’s murder. Can our hero clear his name and avenge his loyal friend? If you’ve ever seen a movie before, you know the drill. Featuring a compendium of stock moments and trite characterizations, this painfully formulaic picture exists somewhere between background noise and comfort food, with the usual lost-in-translation problems (choppy editing, questionable dubbing) adding to an overall sense of mediocrity. Nonetheless, the presence of Robert Blake in the leading role lends the project a certain level of interest.
He plays Teddy “Cherokee” Wilson, a short but muscular boxer with a long criminal record. In the opening scene, he discovers that a manager has ripped him off, so he brawls with the gun-toting crook and secures his freedom. Broke and homeless, Teddy encounters an old friend, Mike (Orazio Orland0), who connects Teddy with a new manager, leading to the aforementioned fight-fixing intrigue. After the murder, Teddy pleads his innocence to Captain Perkins (Ernest Borgnine), the cop leading the investigation. He also struggles to win the loyalty of his dead manager’s daughter, who may or may not have seen the real killer. All of this is just as bland and perfunctory as it sounds. While Borgnine is in and out of the movie so fleetingly as to barely register, Blake is in nearly every scene. His combination of pugnacity and sensitivity is always somewhat interesting, but he’s as undisciplined here as usual, over-decorating some scenes with actorly tics and underplaying others. Still, at least he engages with the material in a serious way. Whether the material actually deserves engagement is another matter.
The Boxer: FUNKY