Monday, June 24, 2013

The Good Son: The Life of Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini

Hey, the Gathr Previews series had a guest:

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That's the film's subject, Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, doing what he can to drum up interest in a film he helped produce in addition to serving as its primary subject. He mentioned a limited theatrical release as well as plans for the film to play VOD outlets later in the summer, making the by-now familiar calls to blog/tweet/upvote the picture. Always awkward when one did not particularly love the movie.

Well, I think he actually just said to get the word out, as he is rather the picture of the a certain sort of Italian-American fellow who has had a certain level of success and come to enjoy the fame and success that goes with it, and it's hard to imagine them talking about the internet. Right accent, big grin, off-the charts charisma that makes you think it would work on anybody he comes in contact with, no matter how much or how little they have in common. He has grown into being just perfect as the nightclub owner who you don't believe is involved in anything shady even after there's no doubt, should anyone ever offer him that role.

Given the typical attendance at this series, a number of folks were quite clearly coming for Mancini in particular, as a lot ore of the questions in the Q&A had to do with his boxing career than what we saw in the film. That's where some of my amazement at how well he seems to recall specific fights comes from; he pointed out that he got out of the fight game early enough that he can still spell "fight". And it's kind of fun to see him work a crowd; he shook hands with nearly everybody and amended his answer on what he thought of UFC-style fighting pretty quickly.

Wish I liked his movie a little more, but then again, if it were a more exciting movie, he might not be such a relatively happy and content person, and isn't that better?

The Good Son: The LIfe of Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini

* * (out of four)
Seen 17 June 2013 in the Regal Theatre (Gathr Previews Presents..., digital)

Ray Mancini was at this screening for a Q&A, and he mentioned that when Mark Kreigel approached him with the idea of doing the book on which this movie was based, he wasn't particularly interested; he'd told his story a number of times and didn't feel like there was anything new to say. And while Kreigel had an angle that led Mancini to relent (fathers and sons), the feeling of this well being dry is still there, even for those who only vaguely recognize "Boom Boom" Mancini's name.

And once upon a time in the late 1970s and early 1980s, that name was huge; he was boxing's lightweight champion back when the sport was on broadcast television weekly and the lower weight classes were often followed as closely as - and considered more exciting than - the lumbering heavyweights. He took his nickname from his father Lenny, who had been a fighter himself before being injured in World War II. Ray never wanted to be anything else, pledging to win the title for his father even back in grade school. It was a great story, at least until he fought Korean boxer Kim Duk-koo in Las Vegas, landing a knockout blow from which Kim never awoke before dying four days later.

Ray Mancini's family history certainly isn't boring from the perspective of a random guy sitting next to you on a plane or in a bar and describing what put him there, but it can seem kind of ordinary by the standards of people who have biographies written about them: There's a mill town that goes to seed when the mill closes, a father who drinks a little too much, and a kid who goes off to New York to see if he can make it on the big stage, where his father made an attempt but never quite broke through. It's a good story, and it's got some good subplots, but it's hard to tell compellingly. Thirty years after Ray Mancini's career hit its zenith, everybody who could talk about him and Youngstown, Ohio when he was younger is middle-aged and sort of comfortable-looking: His old friends are nice, although the filmmakers are lucky that actor Ed O'Neill is among that number or just happens to be a guy who grew up in Youngstown around the same time, because having a guy who is used to being on camera on-hand to communicate what the town was like certainly helps. Go back far enough to be talking about Lenny Mancini Sr., and it gets drier, with just a few stock photos to tell the story. It is, up until the Kim fight, a fairly standard local-boy-makes-good story, and despite Kreigel's enthusiasm and director Jesse James Miller's basic skill, it just doesn't make the leap to being more.

Full review on EFC

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