A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Challenger is an indie boxing drama that's been promoted as the final movie of character actor Michael Clarke Duncan, who died in 2012. Written, directed, and starring Kent Moran, the film draws on much that's expected about the sports movie genre. Viewers can expect some ringside violence, an upsetting scene of a sick mom being hospitalized, and minor language ("bastard," "damn," "hell"), but it's really the wince-inducing boxing and the gritty setting that makes this one better suited for older tweens and up.
What's the story?
THE CHALLENGER is a boxing drama written, directed, and starring newcomer Kent Moran that also happens to be the last movie featuring actor Michael Clarke Duncan (despite having been filmed in 2012 -- the year Duncan died -- it wasn't released until September 2015). It follows Moran as Jaden, a Bronx-bred mechanic who loses his job and, facing eviction, decides to beg his former trainer, Duane (Duncan), to take a chance on him. After in-depth training, Jaden quickly emerges as a serious underdog contender to be a true boxing champ.
Is it any good?
Other than seeing the late, great Duncan one last time, there's nothing remarkable about writer-director-star Moran's predictably inspiring boxing flick. With far better boxing movies available, from classics like Raging Bull and Rocky to more recent fare like Southpaw, it's unlikely that audiences will feel compelled to see this middling addition the genre, especially considering that the film's actual boxing scenes are so underwhelming and uninspired.
Duncan and S. Epatha Merkerson, who plays Jaden's adoptive mother, a retired social worker, are by far the best performers in the movie, making the best of their cliched characters -- the wise and steadfast boxing mentor and the ill single mother who's always believed in her son. Although Moran looks the part, fit and fast, he's disappointingly bland as a hungry wannabe boxer who defies expectations.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about boxing violence. How does it compare to the kind of violence depicted in other movies? Do different types of violence have different impact?
What are some of the expected scenes/plot points in a boxing movie? Does The Challenger handle those well? Why do you think training montages, pep talks, and coach-athlete relationships are included in most movies about serious athletes?
This is co-star Michael Clarke Duncan's final film. Discuss his many roles. Which one is your favorite?
- In theaters: September 11, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: May 3, 2016
- Cast: Michael Clarke Duncan, S. Epatha Merkerson, Kent Moran
- Director: Kent Moran
- Studio: Freestyle Releasing
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sports violence
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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