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July 2006


By Kam Williams


Distributor: Lee Daniels Entertainment
Director: Lee Daniels
Screenwriter: Will Rokos
Producers: Lee Daniels, Lisa Cortes, Brook Lenfest, Dave Robinson, & Will Rokos
Cast: Helen Mirren, Cuba Gooding, Jr, Macy Gray, Mo'Nique, Stephen Dorff, Vanessa Ferlito, & Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Rated R for expletives, nudity, graphic sexuality, gratuitous gore,
eroticized violence, sadism and drug use.
Running time: 93 minutes


Lee Daniels Makes Directorial Debut with Sadistic, Incestuous Snuff Film

Shadowboxer marks the eagerly-anticipated directorial debut of Lee Daniels who was previously best known as the producer of Monster's Ball, the Jungle Fever flick for which Halle Berry won an Academy Awarded. Here, Lee takes a page out of that steamy sex romp while tossing in tons of sadistic gore to create a sordid crime drama that combines cruelty with carnality.

Where Monster's Ball most memorable moments involved the nubile and nude Halle rolling around in arms of the relatively-unappetizing Billy Bob Thornton, this time it's Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. cavorting in his birthday suit with the decidedly-geriatric Helen Mirren. The problem is not just that sixty-something Mirren is old enough to be Cuba's mother, but that she also happens to be playing his step-mother.

And on top of the Oedipal aspect of their liaison, her character is also wracked with pain due to inoperable cancer. So, those open-minded enough to get past the incest issue still might find themselves a bit bothered by the sight of virile, muscular Cuba mating with a sickly senior citizen who looks like death sucking on a Lifesaver.

Their ill-fated love story aside, Shadowboxer is otherwise a kinky, killer-for-hire crime saga. Rose (Mirren) is a heartless assassin who has raised Mikey (Gooding) to follow in her footsteps. As the movie opens, we find Rose in failing health and agreeing to participate in one last rubout before retirement. But when the mother-son hit team discovers that Vickie (Vanessa Ferlito), the woman they're supposed to murder is nine-months pregnant, they have an instant change of heart and choose to save her instead. This development doesn't sit well with her husband (Stephen Dorff), the sadistic crime boss who wanted his wife wasted.Thus begins a cat-and-mouse game where Rose, Mikey, Vanessa and the baby attempt to hide under the radar by renting a home in suburban Philadelphia, hoping the heartless hood never catches wind of their whereabouts. Meanwhile, to pay the rent, Mikey continues to take assignments from a wheelchair-bound angel of death(Tom Pasch).

While I won't spoil any of the imaginative ways in which victims are tortured before being eliminated, suffice to say it is certain to satisfy the blood lust of those given to gruesome fare. That being said, Shadowboxer‘s Swiss cheese plotline is riddled with too many holes to consider this flick as much more than a snuff film.

The cast of this high body-count affair includes comedienne Mo'Nique and gravel-throated songstress Macy Gray, both of whom do a decent job, despite being abandoned by a bizarre script. Strictly for devotees of eroticized-violence or anyone who's been fantasizing about Cuba Gooding's bod.

Fair (1 star)