The normal parts of the film are ultra-normal. It could have been made in the fifties or even earlier. The fight scenes are the only important bit and - astonishingly - they are very well done. In 'Beautiful Mind' Howard used his middle-brow directorial style to explain schizophrenia and game theory. In this film he reveals the stratagem of the boxing match, which can easily get lost in a simplistic emphasis on the big punch. I've never seen boxing so clearly explained.
In the early eighties I worked in a homeless shelter. This was before Thatcherism had really taken a bite, and homelessness was still quite rare. Most of the guys in the shelter were ex-boxers with brain damage, and this has permanently put me off boxing. In fact I think it should be banned. But that's the paradox isn't it? I like to see stuff in films that I think is wrong in real life.
I like to see war and fighting. Partly because I like bravery and toughness, and partly because I find the intellectual strategems interesting. War is the ultimate test, and it shows that strength and size is not the decisive factor. I like Crowe because he's quite short, and I like the fall-back style of winning a fight. You know, like it says in The Art of War - bring the enemy in, co-opt his strengths into your own advantage, then hit him.
Short verdict - one for connoisseurs of fighting and tough guys.