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Original Issue

Under Review

Million Dollar Baby it's not, but Fighting Tommy Riley, by first-time screenwriter-director team J.P. Davis and Eddie O'Flaherty, packs a generous dollop of heart into its fictional tale of two different kinds of fighters. In this gritty movie, which opened in limited release on May 6, Davis plays Tommy Riley, who after failing to qualify for the 2000 Olympics is fighting his toughest opponent to date: despair. He meets Marty Goldberg (Eddie Jones), an aging, brooding trainer who's fond of quoting Herman Melville. The two underdogs retreat to Marty's cabin in the woods to start an intensive regimen for Tommy's comeback fight. There the script, in striving to make boxing a metaphor for life, starts to look and sound like beginners' work. "People aren't always what they seem," Marty tells Tommy. "I'm more than what you see. We all are." Still, despite obvious budgetary limitations, including a lack of name-brand stars (Davis has only a few obscure film roles to his credit), the film is stylish and well-paced. Jones, however, is the main event. The veteran character actor (Seabiscuit, A League of Their Own) turns in a nuanced, intense performance that makes Tommy Riley worth seeing, even if you're not a boxing fan. --Nancy Ramsey