After the death of his wife, Gary Farrell is left alone to take care of his
young son. On his $45 per week salary as a truck driver, Gary struggles to send his son to a military school, leading him to enter a heavyweight boxing tournament in the hopes of winning the $500 grand prize. While Gary is unquestionably raw, he wins the tournament with the help of his trainer, Pop, opting to make a career of boxing. After a short time Pop molds Gary into a true contender but soon after the quick rise to fame clouds Gary's judgement, threatening to derail him and destroy everything he truly cares about. Sam Newfield's The Contender is a run of the mill story which suffers somewhat from its abridged running time. Much of the film centers around the rise and subsequent fall of Gary, who lets fame and fortune bloat his ego and ultimately disappoint his son, the person who he cares about most in this world. Being barely over 60 minutes in length, the film's a little too fast-paced specifically pertaining to Gary's fall from grace. All of the narrative beats are touched on but I found the running time to be too suffocating, taking a lot away from Gary as a character. We see his rise and fall, and it makes sense, but it never feels as natural as it should from the character perspective because of the short running time. From a technical perspective, I wouldn't go as far as to say The Contender was groundbreaking for the time, but the film uses some nice transitions and editing to capture Gary's rise to stardom. The Contender features some decent fight choreography, though it would be deemed cheesy by today's standards, with the smokey,cloudy ring being my favorite aesthetic decision. The Contender by and large brings nothing to the table which the average viewer hasn't seen, though that doesn't mean it isn't a decent story of neglect and ultimately redemption.
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