The Great White Hype (1996)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Satire, Sports Comedy  |   Release Date - May 3, 1996 (USA)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Hype is the word all right, when a film gathers together a staggering cast of big-name actors then strands them in a half-baked satire that fizzles into an anticlimax by the 90-minute mark. There are blueprints for a good boxing lampoon in The Great White Hype, but director Reginald Hudlin and screenwriters Ron Shelton and Tony Hendra haven't developed their (unsurprising) indictment of this industry into something gleefully subversive. Because both Terry Conklin and James Roper are essentially losers, neither following a very enlightened path to their current station in life, it's hard to predict how their big fight will turn out, based on any traditional sense of narrative bias. But it's also hard to care. The film has the good sense not to try to please its audience, displaying a gutsy indifference about punishing the wicked and vindicating the saintly. That's the mark of a good satire, but it's also the problem -- since no one in the film is incorruptible, some jerk is going to come out on top, and the filmmakers don't do a smart enough job making it matter which one. Shelton and Hendra also don't show much talent for completing a character arc. Few characters change in any noticeable way, and the one exception -- an intrepid reporter played by Jeff Goldblum -- does so with such awkward suddenness, the viewer is left blind-sided by the falsity of it. Samuel L. Jackson has fun with the role of the greedy promoter, a transparent poke at Don King, while Damon Wayans gives what seems like a lazy Mike Tyson impersonation. The whole film is executed at about this percentage of what might have made it outrageous or memorable.