Rocky Marciano (1999)
Before he became a prominent figure in the Disney, Star Wars and Marvel universes, Jon Favreau was primarily known for his comic abilities. It's these qualities that come to the fore in his depiction of boxing’s only undefeated Heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano. An early montage of his amateur bouts is played purely for laughs, while the professional fights are choreographed like a Three Stooges skit. Marciano’s head unrepentantly rocks back with each successive punch till he pauses and readies himself to unleash the ‘Suzy Q’. One almost expects he will utter nyuk nyuk nyuk while standing over another fallen opponent.
After receiving an award from the Italian-American community, Marciano spots something on the ground he considers more important. A quarter. Cue flashback, the first of many to occur on the last day of the boxer's life. Curiously, boxer Joe Louis surfaces in many of these, starting with a young Marciano listening to his victory over Max Schmeling and ending with the Brown Bomber’s ignominious defeat at the hands of Marciano. It makes for a compelling arc of fan to foe, one that’s never fully realised despite Louis’ frequent appearances.
Instead, the biopic seems intent on portraying Marciano as a penny-pinching palooka. This comic approach does have some rewards, such as the farcical scene in which Marciano’s mother tries to feed him while he’s in training. For the most part though, the tendency to look for humour in its subject robs the film of any meaningful insight. The main take-away from Favreau’s permanently scowling Marciano, one that is overstated to the point of tedium, is that he preferred to be paid in cash.
As it is, the most memorable depiction of a boxer, however fleeting, comes courtesy of Wayne Robson’s engaging portrayal of former Lightweight champion Lou Ambers.
as Rocky Marciano
as Joe Louis
as Lou Ambers
Mark Simmons as Max Schmeling
Marciano did not cut short his honeymoon for his fight with Joe Louis. Rocky and Barbara Marciano were married on December 31, 1950. Afterwards, Rocky fought six other boxers before meeting Louis on October 26, 1951.
Marciano could not have visited Joe Louis in a psychiatric hospital as he had died nine months before Louis was committed.
''Just about every scene was fictional, or the chronology was wrong. It makes him look like a money-driven, rude, second-rate fighter. It was very hard to watch.''
Rocky Marciano Jr.