Ok let’s go ahead and get this out the away: this is an Uwe Boll film and it’s actually very good. And not in a trashy, overly violent and cheesy way like some of his guilty pleasure movies are (Far Cry, Alone in the Dark). Max Schmeling, simply put, is a well crafted movie about the famed 1930s boxer who beat the legendary Joe Louis and did all he could to save himself and those he loved from the Nazi regime. It’s also a film that shows the much ridiculed Boll is capable of making a decent and entertaining movie and one that doesn’t require lots of blood and in your face violence.
Max Schmeling (Maske) was a powerhouse German boxer who famously broke Joe Louis’ unbeaten fight record. Boll’s film charts Schmeling’s rise as a formidable foe and his training in order to fight Louis. Schmeling is a humble and kind man, loyal to his friends (especially his manager and trainer) and completely devoted to his wife Anny (Wuest), who in turn sticks by him through thick and thin. Schmeling rises to the top of his game, beating Joe Louis becoming World Champion. But his country, Germany, is ever increasingly coming under the iron hand of the Nazi war machine and Max himself comes under pressure to fight for the Fuhrer.
First of all Boll’s flick is a pretty standard bio pic, it hitting all the right beats as we see our hero succeed, then lose all his success to then regain it all back again. There are plenty of (well put together) training montages and much adversity for our hero (and his friends and family) to overcome, so there is a certain predictability to proceedings. It’s also perhaps a little over earnest in portraying what a great guy Schmeling was, though this is typical of any sports bio movie and it’s the fine craftsmanship, period detail, decent acting and the fact the Schmeling was actually an interesting guy that makes the film so enjoyable.
The film looks fantastic with the 1930s realistically recreated and some fine widescreen cinematography on show. This is a slick production taking in various scenes set in war torn Greece and Germany and of course the boxing arena. The boxing matches themselves (including two with Joe Louis: Schmeling’s victory over him and then subsequent re-match defeat) are impressively staged. Boll wisely lets them play out, using real boxers to trade punches with one another. No fancy, in-your-face editing or camera trickery to create faux tension, just lengthy pugilist punch-ups that show the fighters challenge. This may frustrate some looking for faster and harder edged fights but this is in keeping with what boxing is really like.
The cast are uniformally good, and Maske who if a little wooden at first (and bearing a passing resemblance to a certain Austrian Oak) infuses Schmeling with such likeability that you can’t help but root for him. A tad overlong it may be but Max Schmeling is fine entertainment and a Boll film certainly worth seeing (along with his equally good Tunnel Rats). More restrained with care given to the filmmaking craft, Max Schmeling is a much more successful and satisfying film than some of his other serious “films” such as Rampage and Stoic.
Review by Andrew Skeates
DVD is released on 16th May 2011 and includes a Making Of and a Director’s Commentary. Picture and sound quality are both excellent.