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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Courage, perseverance, and sheer grit are displayed in the boxing ring. How there can be honor in defeat. The importance of winning fairly. Staying focused on your goals and not being distracted by life's temptations. Greed and immoral behavior are also displayed.
Positive Role Models
Jem Belcher is initially dedicated to his life as a boxer, going on to great success. He does get distracted by drink and women but learns to apply himself once again. His grandfather, Jack Slack, teaches Belcher basics of boxing, shows him love in his own way. But he also shows a meaner side, struggling with issues with alcohol. Bill Warr trains Belcher, tries his best to keep him focused on his sport. Belcher's family are shown to be loving and proud of him, although his mother, Mary, objects to his chosen profession. Lord Rushworth, a snobbish, greedy member of British aristocracy, is motivated by money. He is generous while Belcher is winning but quickly drops him when he's no longer any use to him.
Based on a true story. Majority of characters are White males from both 19th century working-class England and aristocratic society. Minor diversity in terms of race and ethnicity with Belcher fighting one person of color, and a supporting character appearing briefly in one scene. Some female characters, but movie is dominated by men. Snobbery shown by some in the ruling society toward the working class. One character expresses anti-French sentiment.
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Violence & Scariness
Numerous boxing fights -- mostly bare-knuckle -- with plenty of bloodshed, injuries. Characters are punched in the head and body, headbutted, elbowed, knocked unconscious with blood pouring out of their mouth. Character grabs another by the throat and threatens them. A crowd gathers to watch a cockfight that results in the death of one of the cocks. A character suffers a serious injury when they are hit in the eye with a ball, impacting their eyesight. Character attacked in the street by two people, knocked unconscious with a bat. During a fight, a boxer has their swollen eyelid cut open by their trainer to relieve pressure. They also have their other eye popped back into its socket, though the camera doesn't show this explicitly. A young boy punches another after they insult his mother. A character is seen dying in bed.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A handful of brief, non-graphic sex scenes, including at a party with other guests witnessing the act. At the same party, drinks are served by a topless character. Boxers fight shirtless. Character kisses two different women perched on their lap, before playfully nibbling their breasts over their clothes.
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Several uses of "f--king" and "f--k." Also "bastard," "s--t," "c--ks," "piss," and "old fart."
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Products & Purchases
Numerous instances of gambling on boxing, cards, and cockfighting. Greed is shown by some, with characters only interested in boxing for the money. Lavish parties and get-togethers take place in large homes belonging to Britain's higher society.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters are regularly seen drinking beer, spirits, and champagne, both socially and alone. One character appears to have an alcohol use disorder, even drinking while on their death bed. In one scene, they say to another, "You're more fun to be with now that you drink." Another character is seen to be visibly drunk at a party. Some depiction of smoking, both cigarettes and pipes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Prizefighter: The Life of Jem Belcher is a bloody and violent drama about a real-life British boxing champion in the 19th century. Inspired by his grandfather Jack Slack (Russell Crowe) and under the guidance of trainer Bill Warr (Ray Winstone), Jem Belcher (Matt Hookings) boxes his way out of poverty and into Britain's high society. Although he loses his way -- to drink and the company of women -- he regains his focus and learns some important lessons along the way. The boxing scenes -- most of which are bare-knuckle -- are brutal and bloody. Characters are punched, headbutted, elbowed, and knocked unconscious. During one fight, Belcher has to have his eye popped back into its socket, although this is implied rather than shown. Warr is forced to cut the eyelid of Belcher's other eye in order to relieve swelling. Gambling features heavily, including on cockfighting, which although not graphic may upset some. Language includes variants of "f--k," most of which come from Warr. There are several sex scenes, though these are brief and don't contain any nudity. During a debauched party, a topless woman serves drinks. Characters are regularly shown drinking, with Slack appearing to have an alcohol use disorder. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Despite being based on a true story and set in 19th century England, this British boxing movie follows a well-trodden path seen in countless sporting dramas before it. Prizefighter: The Life of Jem Belcher is a classic rags-to-riches, back-to-rags tale, with its central character learning some important life lessons along the way. There are even a couple of training montages thrown in for good measure, complete with Belcher -- played by Hookings, who also wrote the screenplay -- having to catch a fish with his bare hands and being intentionally stung by a river snake. The film is given some gravitas by a couple of heavyweights in the shape of Russell Crowe, who plays Belcher's troubled grandfather, and Ray Winstone, who plays the young boxer's weathered trainer.
However, even they play up to clichéd caricatures of themselves. Crowe's Jack Slack gruffs and hits his way through the opening 30 minutes, never quite mastering the English West Country accent. Meanwhile, Winstone is responsible for around 90% of the entire film's cursing -- "f--king" being a particular favorite of his character, Bill Warr. The movie's fight scenes are relentless, bloody, and at times gory. But they're well choreographed, and Hookings is believable as the tip-toeing, hard-hitting Belcher -- Hookings' real-life father was a boxing champion of some note. Yet while Belcher's feint, move, and hit prove unpredictable to his opponents, the same can't be said for the plot, and for that reason it fails to land any memorable punches.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.