Play It to the Bone [1999]

Best friends Vince (Woody Harrelson) and Cesar (Antonio Banderas) are both down-on-their-luck boxers who've suddenly been given a highly visible fight and a promised shot at the middleweight title--only they're fighting each other. With Grace (Lolita Davidovich), Cesar's current girlfriend and Vince's ex, they drive to Las Vegas. Unsurprisingly, the trip opens up hidden resentments, regrets, and mistakes from the past. What's more surprising is how meandering and shapeless Play It to the Bone is; writer-director Ron Shelton is responsible for such charming and sprightly sports films as Bull Durham, White Men Can't Jump, and Tin Cup, but boxing doesn't seem to have inspired him. The actual boxing match does achieve a kind of brutal energy, though it's curiously filled with gratuitous hallucinations of female nudity. Still, Harrelson and Banderas have a nice rapport, and in their best moments they just yammer at each other, not exactly listening but still communing in a kind of rhythmic groove. Also featuring Lucy Liu from TV's Ally McBeal and dozens of famous cameos at ringside during the bout. --Bret Fetzer

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