Volume 93, Issue 56

Wednesday, January 26, 2000


Ashes a worthy adaptation

Play It To The Bone packs a soft punch

Comic legend gets animated

Play It To The Bone packs a soft punch

Photo by Sidney Baldwin
ANTONIO, STOP. I'M SURE HE DIDN'T MEAN WHAT HE SAID ABOUT MELANIE BEING AN ANNOYING, TALENTLESS TWIT. Antonio Banderas and Woody Harrelson play best friends who duke it out in the latest boxing flick, Play It To The Bone.

By Anthony Turow
Gazette Staff

Play It To The Bone is a film that tries to do it all.

First and foremost, it's a road movie about two buddies (Woody Harrelson and Antonio Banderas) who embark on a trip to Las Vegas to fight each other as last minute opponents on a boxing card.

It's also a film that's largely about the women (Lolita Davidovich and Lucy Liu) who accompany them on the trip. In addition to taking on all of these angles, Play It To The Bone is a big, boring mess.

Usually, films by writer/director Ron Shelton are a treat. Bull Durham, White Men Can't Jump and Tin Cup were all literate, intelligent films which, in addition to being raunchy and hilarious, often contained at least a shred of insight. Characters in Shelton's films are typically genuine, engaging in believable conversations which aren't dumbed-down for the sake of the audience. It's therefore surprising that Play It To The Bone's main problem is that the characters aren't all that smart.

Harrelson plays a boxer who has taken a few too many right crosses to the head. His slightly clueless, slow-witted portrayal is adequate, but one can't help wondering if maybe Harrelson hasn't already played this type of character before. If he had some amusing dialogue to play with, this would only be a minor gripe. Unfortunately, nothing about his character is entertaining and he seems to exist for the sole purpose of sparring, literally and figuratively, with Banderas.

So how is Banderas? Well, consider the mark he's made on cinematic history to date and the problem becomes frighteningly clear. He can't act. The only time he's ever been watchable was in the otherwise boring film, Four Rooms. He has the tendency to stick out like a sore thumb and Play It To The Bone is no exception.

If Harrelson's performance is boring and uninspired, then Banderas' is grating. Part of his problem is that he can never find the right tone for his performance. Somebody needs to remind this guy that he's in a comedy and therefore, it's okay to loosen up a little bit.

The film's best attribute is Davidovich, who plays a woman with intimate connections to both men. Doing double-duty as both their chauffeur and voice of reason, Davidovich plays a woman in the classic Shelton mold – independent, quick-witted and a little eccentric. Think Susan Sarandon in Bull Durham, or Rosie Perez in White Men Can't Jump and you've got the idea. Davidovich is letter perfect in her portrayal of this brassy, ballsy babe, in what is by far the best written character in the film.

Instead of actually ending, the movie ultimately runs out of steam. The big fight at the end is painfully long and finishes without much of a rewarding payoff, but by this point the audience probably won't care much anyway. They'll already be aware of the obvious – Play It To The Bone should have thrown in the towel long before the two hour mark.

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