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In the late 1980s, Anthony Rodriguez (William DeMeo) was a good but tough teenager, living in troubled Bensonhurst, Brooklyn among racial and social fury. Coping with an aggressive alcoholic father, his only hope for keeping it together was his kindly mother (Annabella Sciorra). He tries to keep the standards she teaches him, but in a world gone mad, it becomes harder every day. He’s a man with passion but anger in his heart. He’s taken into the fold by a local mob boss (Michael Madsen), who gets him to box and use his fury in the ring. As time passes, with the expert training of former fighter Eddie ‘Rocks’ Travor (Danny Glover), he punches his way to the top.
Directed by Paul Borghese and written by DeMeo, Back in the Day has all the proper boxing tropes in place, which isn’t to say this doesn’t look like it will work, but seems content to stick firm to what has before. The problem is, what else can be done with this type of film? Sports movies are inherently one-dimensional: down on their luck (person/team) overcomes (crisis/loss/background) to become (champion). It’s all in how the character(s) win us over that make the difference. That’s the key, realizing that the sport itself is not the reason anyone is watching. Granted, this clip doesn’t offer much in taking any of it in an new direction as we move from one contrived tired cliché to the next, including a pounding rock/rap mix banging away on the score, hoping to remind us of last years critically adored Creed.
Back in the Day is low budget but stocked with some very recognizable faces and names, though each fills in the mold of a stock character: the beloved mother, the sketchy promotor, the criminal overlord, the concerned girlfriend, and the grizzled trainer. That said, the trailer portrays them, if not unsurprisingly, at least with some enthusiasm. DeMeo might seem like a new name to most, but he’s been in the business as an actor, writer and producer since the early 1990s. A native of Bensonhurst, he’s bringing some personal history along for this, his own passion project. As audiences are surely unfamiliar with the star of this film, it’s up to the supporting cast to lure viewers in, including a cameo by Mike Tyson, a decision that feels forced and wholly out of place, not to mention awkwardly acted. Time will tell if this boxing movie can go the distance.
Back in the Day opens May 20, 2016
Annabella Sciorra, Michael Madsen, Alec Baldwin, William DeMeo, Danny Glover, Shannen Doherty