5 Questions: Gladiator (1992)
When you think of boxing movies, I’m willing to bet two movies immediately come to mind, Rocky and Raging Bull.
But there is one quality boxing movie you may be forgetting… 1992’s Gladiator.
Gladiator is the story of Tommy Riley (James Marshall) and his father John Riley (John Heard). The Rileys have fallen upon hard times after the death of Tommy’s mother. They were forced to move to one of Chicago’s less affluent communities after John runs into money problems stemming from a nasty gambling habit (That’s no way to cope John!). Tommy, who is trying to turn things around and help pay off his father’s massive gambling debts, finds himself pulled into the world of illegal underground boxing. Now that Tommy is in, is there any way out?
That’s a great question and after a recent viewing of Gladiator I got the answer, but I also found myself asking some more questions…
1. How did Spits get his nickname?
Much like Tommy’s teacher in the movie, Miss Higgins, part of me is afraid to find out how Tommy’s classmate, Leroy, got the nickname Spits. One thing is for certain Spits (T.E. Russell of Toy Soldiers fame) seems to be a pretty popular guy. He must be popular because he’s got a lot of friends and all of them do their best to make life miserable for the new kid at school, Tommy Riley.
Bonus question: Would the Spits character have been as popular if Spits were a female?
2. Does that collector always write on TV’s or does he bring along different mediums depending on the “canvas” he’ll be using?
While his dad, John Riley, is away on a business trip for his new sales job, Tommy gets some uninvited guests in the form of a couple of collectors looking to collect on the gambling debts that Tommy’s dad accrued. The collectors leave a message with Tommy to share with his father when he gets home and this message is left in unique fashion. One of the collectors uses a marker and writes exactly what is owed, including the interest, on Tommy’s TV screen. This leaves the Rileys with an itemized debt statement basically burned into their tube TV.
My question, is the writing on the TV screen the calling card of this particular collector? Does he write on the TV screens of anyone who does not have their payment? Does he ever use different mediums to deface other property? Maybe a knife to carve the figures into a coffee table or a can of spray paint to the hood of a car or finger paints on the refrigerator.
3. Can people still just walk into a place and get a job on the spot?
Maybe I’ve been in “Corporate America” too long, but I was flabbergasted when Tommy Riley goes to a local diner for a cup of coffee and one of his classmates (who is a waitress at the diner and eventually Tommy’s love interest in the film) informs Tommy that the dishwasher didn’t show up and asked if Tommy was interested in the job… moments later Tommy is the diner’s new dishwasher.
No interview. No background check. No drug test. This was almost unfathomable to me.
4. What was Jimmy Horn expecting to find when he pantsed Tommy Riley?
The movie’s finale finds Tommy Riley standing up to the promoter that has forced him to fight, Jimmy Horn (Brian Dennehy). Horn, was a pretty accomplished boxer in his day and is still one tough customer. He’s also something of an egomaniac. And it is Horn’s ego that Tommy exploits in order to turn the tables on the grizzled pugilist.
Since this is an underground boxing circuit and since Jimmy Horn is the boss there aren’t many rules enforced when he comes out of retirement to take on Tommy Riley in a bare knuckles brawl. So it was no surprise to see Horn fight dirty and utilize some unorthodox tactics to gain an advantage, like when Horn decided to strip the shorts right off of Tommy Riley. But why does Horn wonder aloud what is under Tommy’s shorts!?!?
I am sure that Horn, being a man himself, is familiar with the male anatomy and knows what was underneath Tommy’s boxing gear.
5. Am I the only one who would rather watch Gladiator (1992) than Gladiator (2000)?
People lose their ever loving minds over the Gladiator film released in 2000 starring Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix. At over two and a half hours, it is an epic tale of a powerful general in the Roman army, who after losing his family, is forced to compete in Gladiator games for the rest of his life. This movie was an Academy Award winner directed by the legendary Ridley Scott. The movie is great, it is deserving of all the accolades it received, but is it really a movie you need to watch more than once?
On the flip side there is the 1992 Gladiator starring a mix of some of the early 90’s hottest young stars, James Marshall, Cuba Gooding Jr and John Seda and Hollywood veterans Brian Dennehy, Ossie Davis, John Heard and in the role of Pappy Jack, Robert Loggia. This tale of family and overcoming the odds was managed to be told in less than two hours. Bigger is not always better and in movies longer is not always better.
The icing on the cake for 1992’s Gladiator is that it has a killer soundtrack. “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer! “Rico Suave” by Gerardo! And possibly LL Cool J’s finest jam ever, “Mama Said Knock You Out” Now that’s what I call 90’s music!
Coincidentally, Gladiator’s killer soundtrack includes a song called “Killer” by true 90’s icon, Seal. I’d suggest listening to “Killer” via the YouTube link below and I’d suggest checking out Gladiator (1992) at your earliest convenience. Then check it out again and again for years to come!