Why does boxing so consistently make for good movies? Maybe it's because the subject provides action and lurid out-of-ring lives galore, maybe because boxers always seem to be such sad figures, reliant on powerful punches for their brief period of glory and then often doomed to years of neglect and poverty. Even with as popular and long-reigning a pugilist as Louis, this element of despair is present, and along with the marvellous archive footage on view, gives this documentary its compulsive and touching quality. The only complaints, in fact, lie surprisingly with the commentary written by Budd Schulberg; not only does it never question the values of physical violence as sport, but it frequently degenerates into absurdly purple bombast.
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