Billy Tully is the living embodiment of Marlon Brando’s Terry Malloy from On the Waterfront, except he could never really have been a contender, not with the life he has led and the company he’s kept. A hopeless alcoholic living in a flophouse on the seamy side of town, he was a promising boxer chewed up and spit out by the corrupt amateur circuit. His days are spent hustling jobs from farmers who exploit the indigent, any-manner-of-employment seeking migrant workers. With a few dollars in his pocket, the rest of his time passes in endless crawls into and out of various bottles. Tully longs to get back in shape and box again, but he no longer has the will to keep the flame of desire alive inside himself. Liquor has all but killed it.
One day, while attempting to work out at the local YMCA, he runs into a young boxer wannabe named Ernie Munger. Seeing potential talent in the kid, Tully sends him to see his old trainer Ruben Luna. Ruben puts Ernie through the standard drill and he too sees the possibility of another money making, lower echelon level pugilist. Ruben gets Ernie several fights, and after extensive training, he begins his career in dive arenas off the circuit. Having some success, Ernie’s career is sidetracked when his teenage girlfriend, Faye, gets pregnant. Deciding to do the right thing, Ernie leaves the sport and marries Faye. But it’s not long before the need for money has him scouring the same exploitative farm work as Tully. —DVDVerdict
Adventure in many forms is the theme of many of John Huston’s films. His characters are constantly searching for “the stuff that dreams are made of” (the famous closing-line of his debut film The Maltese Falcon). Huston glorified this chase despite its frequent disillusionment and false promise, since it represented a flight from the complacent virtues of ordinary life. Like Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Conrad, Huston regarded civilization as a false surface which thinly veiled a hostile nature. Only those who lived at the edge, on the margins of society were regarded by Huston as fellow travellers. In films as diverse as The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The Asphalt Jungle and Under the Volcano, Huston celebrated men who circled the abyss; characters who are driven to plunge head first into the void.
The son of the great theatre and film actor Walter Huston (who would win an Oscar under his son’s direction for his role in The Treasure of Sierra Madre) and crime journalist Rhea Gore… read more
After a fallow decade working mostly overseas, John Huston returns to the US for an adaptation of Leonard Gardner's titular novel with a result that is at once severe, modest, powerful and very memorable. Part of it a product of growing older, part of it due to having gained more experience, Huston reconnects with his intimate concerns of loss and hardship to deliver one of his most personal indictments of his career