The Harder They Fall (1956)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama, Film a Clef, Sports Drama  |   Release Date - May 9, 1956 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 109 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Michael Costello

Mark Robson's exposé of professional boxing is impressively realistic, reflecting screenwriter Budd Schulberg's intimate knowledge of the sport, but it has a difficult time being shocking with the revelation of the game's corruption. A Film a clef so closely based on the career of Italian fighter Primo Carnera that he sued Columbia Pictures after it was released, it follows his screen surrogate's career through the eyes of a former sportswriter Humphrey Bogart, who is reluctantly working as his press agent. This was Bogart's last film, and he gives a reasonable performance, but seems far too weary to play a character who needs to embody the outraged conscience of the film, while Steiger plays the fighter's sleazy manager in his best rabid-dog style. Again, the fight scenes are authentically staged, including some of the ugliest ring carnage onscreen in the era before Raging Bull (1980), but the film's predictability tends to muffle its impact.