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Fighting Tommy Riley
Fighting Tommy Riley
Actors: Eddie Jones, J.P. Davis, Christina Chambers, Diane Tayler, Scot Belsky
Director: Eddie O'Flaherty
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama
R     2005     1hr 49min

An aging trainer and a young fighter both in need of a second chance team-up to overcome the demons of their past and chase the dreams of their future. Studio: Uni Dist Corp. (mca) Release Date: 08/22/2006 Starring: Edd...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Eddie Jones, J.P. Davis, Christina Chambers, Diane Tayler, Scot Belsky
Director: Eddie O'Flaherty
Creators: J.P. Davis, Eddie O'Flaherty, Bettina Tendler O'Mara, Diana Derycz-Kessler, Kip Bickel, Randolf Turrow
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama
Studio: Screen Media
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 07/26/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 49min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

One of the Sleepers of the Year: A Superb Film!
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"FIGHTING TOMMY RILEY has so many things going for it that it is amazing it didn't do well in the box office. Perhaps audiences are tired of 'boxing movies' ('Million Dollar Baby' sort of usurped that position for a while), but this is not a typical boxing movie: Fighting Tommy Riley takes risks all over the place and that is what helps make it so fine.

Written by J.P. Davis who also plays the title role, the story is less about Tommy Riley than it is about his trainer Marty Goldberg (long-established fine character actor Eddie Jones): this is not a self promoting Rocky/Sylvester Stallone story, fine as that films series was. For a first time writer and actor and directed by first time director Eddie O'Flaherty and cast with unknowns except for Eddie Jones, this film is a 'knockout' (pardon the pun).

Tommy Riley is a young and gifted boxer on the skids, disillusioned by his loss at an attempt at the Olympic trials, an unfortunate lapse of self-confidence that has destroyed his relationship with his girl Stephanie (Christina Chambers) and forced him to do menial labor just to survive. Concurrently we meet Marty Goldberg, an obese, has been trainer who left the ring because of a dark demon he harbors and has turned to teaching high school English. Marty lives with his dog Lucy in squalor, surrounded by the many books he reads and quotes, memorabilia of a ruined career, and sleeping pills. His one friend is feisty Diane Stone (Diane Taylor) who Marty salvaged some time ago from her own downward plunge. Diane is a boxing promoter looking for a client. When Marty and Diane and Tommy collide the beginning of a vigorous training life begins and each of the three gains a resurgence of self-respect.

Both Tommy and Marty carry a load of baggage demons that eventually surface and as Tommy slowly builds as a fighter ready for competition, Marty's devotion to the kid's career becomes more than professional and an unfortunate but inevitable encounter changes their path toward glory. With Diane's promotion Tommy gains the recognition of big time promoter Riley (Scot Belsky) and Tommy is torn between the promise of fame and wealth and his emotional commitment to Marty: his initial impulse to go with Riley (which is contingent on leaving Marty as a trainer) is met with resistance until Marty humbly encourages Tommy to go for his career rather than his obligation to Marty. The result of Tommy's decision tells the story of the film and to reveal it would be unfair.

Eddie Jones and JP Davis are absolutely superb is these very demanding roles. Rarely as a film about sports been influenced by the presence of sexual preferences, and Eddie Jones handles this enigmatic characteristic with extreme sensitivity and makes us all feel his anguish at the slings that life has thrown his way. And the manner in which Davis finesses both the initial advances from Jones and then gradually alters his response in understanding Jones' behavior is nothing short of miraculous acting. Director O'Flaherty has created a brilliant little film from Davis' fine script and one can only hope there will be more collaborations as excellent as this.

The cinematography (Michael Fimognari) and musical score (Lee Sanders and Tim Simonec) keep the mood of the film flowing. Bravo to all concerned not only for a fine story well done, but alos for the courage to focus on sub rosa sexual themes with all the sensitivity this film represents. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, July 05

Excellent film
David Romano | Lancaster, PA United States | 10/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Ok, first, to deal with the two one-star reviews...

Obviously someone missed the point of the film. This isn't a buddy flick, this isn't a "and they all lived happily ever after" flick, this is first and foremost a film about two people who for whatever reason have not been given the love they feel life should sent their way.

The Professor isn't just "chester the molester", and he didn't bring Tomy to the cabin "to seduce him". Sometimes straight and gay guys can be friends, and sometimes unfortunate things happen between those friends. The Professor was hardly a sexual predator, and Tommy was not some hapless rape victim; you don't spend months of time and a heck of a lot of cash just to get some cute and straight twinkie into bed. This was a serious relationship initially founded on boxing, then founded on a really amazing give and take between the two.

That mistake, and the fact that Tommy was going nowhere even with a million bucks hanging in the balance, was a testament to the bond these men shared. Not as "older gay guy drooling over younger sexy straight guy", but a genuine bond between two men with a common goal and the desire to actually be friends.

Tommy threw himself at the Professor, not because he wanted to "give in", but because he was afraid of being left alone again by people he cared about. He was so desperate to not move forward without the Professor that he would do anything to make sure the one person in his life who actually cared about him wouldn't leave (well, ok, say anything). Did either man make the smartest decision, no. But that's life, and it's obvious that both were devasated by the later decisions made.

Now, for the rest of the review, which will be short. It was an excellent film. JP Davis, the star, wrote the film, and I have to say that his ability to handle sensitive material really impressed me. The film was gritty, real, intelligent, and moving. Which of course means that when the time comes, it will be completely ignored by the Academy. I saw a lot of myself in the character of Tommy, and as a gay martial artist, I am well aware of the fighting community and its "skeletons in the closet".

Kudos for this film being made. I'd left it on the shelf for the longest time because, like many, "Million Dollar Baby" was my boxing film of the year. But in its own way, this was just as good.

I'd have to say that while I really liked "Rocky", my current top boxing flicks would have to be "Baby", "Girlfight", and now "Fighting Tommy Riley". This is a must see as long as you have the capacity to see beyond "oh my god, what a dirty old man and sad little boy" and really look into what motivates the characters."
Simply Beautiful
Miguelvicente C. Gatmaytan | Seattle, WA USA | 08/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Its normally odd that a fine film could be made that deals with both adversity and homosexuallity without outright nudity and sex being involved that it comes rather close to pornography. This is one exception. Trully, it could be admitted that the film does not have a million dollar budget, but it was made with quality and style. Both the acting of the major characters were excpetional. It was not too light that it became a comedy nor too heavy that it became messy. The mood was just right to put the simple message of adversity, the will to overcome, loyalty, and even love in all its complex forms clear. I trully recommend it. If for nothing else but for its simplicity of style and message."
"Whatever special is, in this madness, I think you've got it
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/31/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Actor, Eddie Jones should probably get an Oscar nomination for his passionate and totally avid performance in Fighting Tommy Riley, this years answer to Million Dollar Baby. Jones, not so much acts, but fully inhabits his character, as an overweight, troubled, and aging trainer, who is dragged out from a mysterious retirement to coach to a fragmentary but fiercely talented young boxer.

Gone is Million Dollar Baby's more polished revision of the Hollywood boxing saga, with director Eddie O'Flaherty, in this low-budget, but tensely constructed melodrama, choosing instead to chart the twisted emotional interiors of two very different and conflicted men. Unlike Million Dollar Baby's female to male dynamic, this movie's male-to-male friendship is much more forceful and ill defined, even going so far as to take on sexual implications.

Set in Los Angeles, and using its inner city seedy gyms and shabby one room apartments as it's milieu, the movie centers on Tommy Riley (J.P. Davis), a poor but hardworking boxer who - due to inferior coaching - messed up on his Olympic trials. Now he's eking out a living as a store man and packer while trying to keep his boxing skills up to standard at the local rink. He's an impetuous, fiery-headed young man, who, while possessed with obvious good looks and sex appeal - often thinks with his fists and lacks the intelligence and stamina to really get somewhere.

Tommy soon wins the attention and affection of Marty Goldberg, (Jones), a podgy, aging bachelor with his own losses to live down. Marty teaches Melville and Dickens to high schoolers and lives a lonely, secluded life, complete with his books and his cute pug dog. He takes pills for depression and has trouble keeping his trousers up over his widening gut. But when he sees Marty knock out cold a competitor wearing a head guard, he's immediately drawn to the virile young man. Marty realizes that the impressionable Tommy has something really special.

Marty is professional to the core, and wants only what is best for Tommy. But Marty gradually begins to turns his prizefighter into his own prize, an object that he extracts from its normal setting and admires away from the rest of the world. He calculatingly takes him for secluded weekends in the country, gives him helpful rubdowns, and absurdly forbids jogging to music since there will be none heard in the ring.

The naïve Tommy - who seems to have never been given a scrap of love in his life - takes all this in his stride; yet he begins to love Marty, becoming increasingly emotionally dependent on him, and seemingly oblivious to the coach's furtive machinations. But the clues are already there (certainly for the viewer, if not for Tommy), and as Marty begins to weave his web, we begin to get his disappointed, and thwarted life confessional. It's like a warning to Tommy: "You never know what tragedies lie in a person's wake. You only know what I let you see."

Although the story is at times contrived and often a little predictable, Fighting Tommy Riley still has some splendid and powerful moments. The slick and glossy cinematography favors somber blues and grays in the alleys and unadorned sparring places, and then the film bursts with color when the action travels to a lakeside retreat.

The performances are gritty and passionate with the pretty Mr. Davis striking just the right balance between compassion, concern, and ultimately desperation. And Diane Tayler gives an outstanding supporting performance as Diane Stone, Marty's cussing colleague and bottom-rung manager. But in the end, the film belongs to Eddie Jones, who as Marty totally conveys, with a kind of crippling veracity and perhaps also a genuine melancholy, the terrible results of just not letting go of life's disappointments. Mike Leonard July 05.