Hollywood heavyweights Woody Harrelson and Antonio Banderas bring real comedic punch to this hilarious, action packed hit! Best buddies and sparring partners, Vince (Harrelson) and Cesar (Banderas) are a pair of worn-out, over-the-hill prizefighters who jump at one last, unexpected chance to work in the big time. They just have to be in Las Vegas now! So before they know what s hit them, they re on the road! But when they step into the ring that night, friendship is replaced by fierce competition as Vince and Cesar tangle in a dramatic fight to the finish _ where only the winner will earn a shot at the title! With sexy Lolita Davidovich (Mystery, Alaska) and sultry Lucy Liu (Kill Bill) along to liven up the ride, you won t want to miss any of the knockout entertainment that powers this whirlwind comedy adventure!
Things that Nate Boss is tired of: Excessive heat. Laundry. The media falling for Lady Gaga's act every damn day. Breakfast burritos made by people who don't understand good Mexican food. Those films where all ten of the branching story lines all wind up at the same spot, and are magically connected. Drunken ignorance. What classifies as modern "rock" music. Traffic. Predictable sports movies.
'Play it to the Bone' is one of these things. No, it's not a bad breakfast burrito. It's an interesting attempt to deviate from the formula, which, after a while, stops deviating and sticks to routine, with far too many hints to what is going to happen in the end. It's a film where there are seemingly as many positives as there are negatives, a unique, yet wonky, strangely familiar ride of a film, whose pacing is beyond inconsistent and frustrating. Entertaining, yet uneven, with a mixture of characters, some real and defined, others little more than cardboard cutouts, this is a film that didn't quite deserve to fail, yet most certainly did everything it could to not succeed.
When two washed up boxers (Antonio Banderas, Woody Harrelson) are given a second chance, to be the undercard main event for a Tyson bout in Las Vegas that night, all the years spent in relative obscurity facing off against a chance to begin anew take their toll. Questioning themselves and each other, the friends begin the day on the same page, but slowly drift to the point that they're ready to pummel the other, no questions asked. With their ride (Lolita Davidovich) to Vegas secretly pitting the two men against each other, their journeys to the bottom rung are relived, as the ten round massacre each man has in store for the other will decide which of the two is the better fighter, or even better man.
What I don't get is the bizarre writing and lackluster direction in this film, both from Ron Shelton. The name may not strike you as all that familiar, but his credits are pretty damned impressive. I'm sure many filmmakers would trade in their entire filmographies to be credited for 'Tin Cup,' 'Bull Durham,' 'Dark Blue,' and 'White Men Can't Jump' (with additional writing credits for 'Blue Chips' and 'Bad Boys II'), even if that means being stuck with 'Hollywood Homicide.' His most recent work, 'Jordan Rides the Bus,' for ESPN's '30 for 30,' is one of the least formulaic features in the set. His effort here, though, is just lacking. The script is lazy.
Take Davidovich's part, for example. She conveniently has a reason she'd want to go to Las Vegas with the guys on a moment's notice, a subplot that doesn't fit in with the main arc one bit. She also, again conveniently, has dated both men, breaking up with one on the road to Vegas, therefore playing a neutral party in the whole affair. Aside from telling each of her former beaus what they want to hear, while on the road or in the ring, she does nothing to help. In fact, her little mental warfare may be the worst thing for the guys. She's there, seemingly, to make the film more universal, not just a guy movie, her role so underdeveloped and sloppy that it may as well have just been written in the neutral space on each page of the script.
Harrelson and Banderas are great, very convincing in their roles, both in and out of the ring, and, honestly, the boxing action in this film is very solid. This isn't Hollywood boxing, even if you know exactly what's going to happen going in to the match. There's a sense of realism to it, the struggles getting up, the sweat, the swollen eyes, cuts that just won't close up due to being constantly aggravated, the fatigue, it's really the highlight of the film, as well it should be. This isn't 'The Big Lebowski,' where the match each bowling team is trying to get into is never shown, or '61*,' where the playoffs aren't even touched, as the story ends with the final home run. This film culminates where it should, in round ten.
When watching 'Play it to the Bone,' it may be best to ignore Lucy Liu, as her character is so unbelievable that she may as well have a rocket backpack and a laser gun. Instead, focus on the solid performance from Tom Sizemore, ogle the celebrities at ringside (including Bruce Buffer, who belongs in each and every boxing anything), or just try to focus on either force about to face off: the delusional pseudo-Christian, or the formerly bi-sexual latino firecracker. They are what the film is about, and damn near everything and everyone else is an unwelcome distraction. This is a film where a three person dynamic would have been better left at two.
The Disc: Vital Stats
One of Disney's titles that went the way of Mill Creek, 'Play it to the Bone' comes to Blu-ray on a Region A marked BD25 disc. There is no annoying pre-menu jibber jabber, and not even much of a menu at that. This title currently is slated to wide release in late August, but is available now in some Wal-Mart stores, or from walmart.com as a timed exclusive for a mere pittance.
On the bright side, Mill Creek is nowhere near as incompetent as, say...Echo Bridge. You knew I had to make that dig somewhere in this review. In fact, the smaller company does a pretty good job with what they're given here. Proper aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (meaning this isn't some movie channel master), 1080p video, it's all good.
It just ain't great.
From the start, you can see grain levels aren't tampered with, but random hairs (big ones, too, that can at times be bigger than characters), some dirt blips, and a few noise bursts keep this one in Earth's stratosphere. There's some light ringing here and there, a few moments with obvious artifacting, a little bit of flickering, a spot of sharp aliasing and some very fuzzy reds in the fancy shmancy dress found in the third act. But, textures are wonderful far more often than they're flat, detail levels are the same, with no blatantly flat or crummy moments, and picture depth ranges towards deep far more often than flatness. For a cheap little catalog dump release from a very small distributor who paid pennies on the dollar and are merely trying to recoup their investment, 'Play it to the Bone' fares much better than many titles relegated to the same fate. This isn't a knockout, but it will most certainly last the whole fight and be one of those close call bouts.
Eleven years ago almost to the day, Disney released this title on DVD with Dolby Digital 5.1, which was a pretty standard flavor for the time. Mill Creek's release of the film on Blu-ray, which sports the same MSRP, ups the track to DTS-HD Master Audio, but downgrades the mix to 2.0, like most, if not all of their Disney-mid-card title acquisitions. Bang for the buck isn't an issue here, as the bass levels can get pretty damn insane for a 2.0 track, with plenty of heaviness and unrefined power. In fact, this greatest strength is also the disc's worst enemy, as bass elements regular overpower anything else going on, dialogue, ambience, the rest of the soundtrack, the crowd, even impacts in the big fight. Dialogue is fair, with some weird static here and there, but separation is hardly worthy of praise. This track is as blunt and one dimensional as the film.
There are no dub or subtitle options on this release. The disc defaults are all you get.
'Play it to the Bone' is a fun film, but it's far from an intelligent one. It's overly convenient, excessively contrived, and somewhat uneven. It's still worth watching while munching on pork grinds or any other fatty substance, and as far as aging, it holds up quite well. Mill Creek's Blu-ray release of the film is average at best, and barebones at most. For, what, five bucks, I can imagine few things more entertaining than what you get with this release. It's worth checking out, especially at the super low price it is currently found at. You just may have a hard time finding it!