After 17 years in the ring, it’s the final bell for Mountain Rivera. A fight doctor confirms one more punch for the washed-up heavyweight could leave him permanently disabled. Reluctantly, but with the support of his faithful trainer and a kindly employment counselor, Rivera tries to land a job outside the ring. But his calculating manager Maish has other plans for Rivera. With the mob closing in on him for payment of a huge gambling debt, Maish coerces Rivera into returning to the ring for a lucrative and humiliating career in staged wrestling matches.
What We Thought:
I had never seen Requiem for a Heavyweight and after watching it, I quite liked it. Boxing movies are usually pretty good in general, but this is driven by top-notch performances and authenticity that still holds up today.
Anthony Quinn plays an aging boxer who fights a young Cassius Clay. A doctor thinks he’s taken too many shots to the head, but his promoter/manager (Jackie Gleason) needs him to make money to pay off his own gambling debts. Mickey Rooney is a trainer and looking out for Quinn’s character and who truly has his best interests in mind.
This is a black & white film from the 1960s yet feels as relevant as ever. Some athletes just don’t know when to hang it up and there are people out there like Gleason who will take advantage of them. Don King did it for decades and this came out long before King was around. Quinn’s fighter takes pride in never taking a dive which is something to be proud of because of the corruption in boxing especially back then.
Quinn is great in the role. He plays the somewhat dumb boxer perfectly. You understand him wanting to continue fighting and see him struggling to get a “normal” job with just a sixth grade education. He has a love interest in it who he’s surprised by because he doesn’t expect a woman like that to fall for him. Quinn looked the role and was surprisingly big.
Gleason is also fantastic. You think Gleason you usually think comedy, but he’s great in this drama. He’s dealing with bookies and doing things that aren’t right for his friend. I was quite surprised by Gleason’s performance because he’s usually the lovable comedy type. Rooney is also quite good playing the third wheel as is Julie Harris as the love interest trying to help Quinn land a job.
Requiem for a Heavyweight is a solid movie with a great cast. It’s relatively quick and puts you right into the heart of the story immediately. Quinn was an award winning actor and it shows here. Same for Gleason and Rooney. If you are a fan, this is a great Blu-ray to pick up.