Play It to the Bone

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The most interesting thing about “Play It to the Bone” is that the character named Cesar (Antonio Banderas) is sporting a Caesar haircut.

That’s the sort of thing your mind comes up with when you realize the movie isn’t going to entertain you, so you’re going to have to entertain yourself.

(Also: Woody Harrelson’s character, Vince, has a goatee. Have you ever seen a boxer with facial hair? Seems like if you got cut, the hair would get in the way of treating the wound between rounds. I would be clean-cut, if I were a boxer.)

Anyway, “Play It to the Bone” is a film so uninteresting, it almost seems to be working at it. Vince and Cesar are pals in L.A., both former semi-famous boxers, now a couple of has-beens (if indeed they ever were). Due to an amazing coincidence that the film doesn’t even TRY to play for laughs (which it should have, since it’s too unbelievable otherwise), both boxers in a major under-card fight become incapacitated. The promoter, needing someone to be the “opening act” for the big Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas, calls Cesar and Vince and asks them to fill in.

Here the movie has potential: Two best friends, both boxers, now have to fight each other. What kind of psychological impact does that have? Will one pull his punches in the ring? Will it damage their friendship? Can they even go through with it?

These are all fascinating questions, and the film addresses none of them. Instead, we’re treated to the two idiots driving to Las Vegas (no explanation is given why they didn’t fly, especially when the fight promoter TOLD them to) in a road trip that seems to be shot in real time. Accompanying them is Grace (Lolita Davidovich), a determinedly free-thinking gal who is currently dating Cesar and once dated Vince.

Along the way we learn fascinating tidbits such as the fact that Vince is now a Jesus freak, and that Cesar toyed with homosexuality for a while. Ideally, the rapport between Harrelson and Banderos would be fun to watch, like your standard “buddy” movie. That rapport is occasionally amusing, but not often enough to warrant spending half the movie just getting to Las Vegas.

Once they get there, the actual fight happens, and it’s a genuinely unthrilling boxing match, perhaps the most unthrilling in film history. It livens up near the end, just in time for a cop-out resolution as the film fails to end, preferring instead to just sort of peter out.

Harrelson is the same way he’s been in pretty much every post-“Cheers” gig he’s had: braying and obnoxious, to the point where you just want to smack him. Banderas is slightly better, and definitely the more sympathetic character, though not by much. Davidovich’s Grace is baffling, as we’re never sure what her function is. To provide tension between the two fighters? To serve as a female contrast to their testosterone-heavy bickering? I suspect the only reason she’s in the movie is that Cesar and Vince needed a ride to Las Vegas.

You walk out of this movie scratching your head, saying, “Why did they make that?” It’s not funny, it’s not interesting, it’s not exciting — why were we supposed to want to see it? The answer is, you don’t.

D (; R, abundant profanity, abundant nudity, fairly heavy sex, frequent vulgarity and crudeness..)

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