CARDBOARD BOXER – A Review By Nick Askam

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I’ve never been homeless and have had few experiences with homeless people in my life. In fact, most of my experiences with homeless people are me ignoring them. I think that’s why I was so surprised by this film. It made homelessness become real and the people were actual people not just objects. Knate Lee, the director, tells a human story about struggle without feeling over the top. I was every more surprised when I saw that Lee’s previous projects were producing films like Bad Grandpa and Jackass 3D. This film is almost the complete opposite in storytelling and tone.

The Cardboard Boxer is a story of a homeless man (Thomas Haden Church) and his struggles with being homeless. He interacts with other homeless people and a taxi driver (Terrence Howard) comes in occasionally to check on him. Church is digging through a dumpster and finds a journal from a girl who he doesn’t know. The journal is burned and he reads the journal constantly and even learns how to read cursive to continue. The girl’s words humanize the man and convince him to “write” back to her. The homeless man’s life changes when a rich kid (Rhys Wakefield) comes into the area and gives the homeless man cash if he fights people. The taxi driver obviously doesn’t like this and is forced to take action.

I liked this film because you can see the change in the man’s character as he reads this journal. He’s not well-spoken or eloquent, but it’s obvious to see his down to Earth perspective. I think Church has a fantastic performance because you can empathize with him so easily. He’s not a thug or scary like most people would stereotype him to be. He’s just a normal guy in an unfortunate position. His responses to the journal show his position on the hard to discuss topics and I think provide great insight into what people in unfortunate circumstances go through. I think it’s easy to see his flaws (fighting people), but I was almost willing to forget that to help this guy out. Lee forces you to make a decision on who you’re going to support. It would be pretty easy to write him off, and I think at the beginning of the film, you’re very much inclined to do so. As the film carries on, you’re shown this character in a new way and it’s almost magical as your perspective changes on the situation.

I thought the performances were pretty great. I didn’t think anyone acted different than you’d expect minus one scene with the taxi drivers and the rich kids at the end. I thought Wakefield was especially believable. He just wanted entertainment and getting homeless people to fight was the only real thing that he could do. He’s almost a tragic character in his own way, but in a different way because it’s apparent that normal life doesn’t entertain him. His quest for “realness” is built on false logic that these homeless people aren’t people. He never realizes it until the last scene that had more suspense than most horror movies I’ve seen recently. I also liked the performances from the people trying to convert the homeless men so they’d be saved. Johanna Braddy was the highlight of the last few minutes of the film.

I actually really enjoyed the ending of the film. This whole time, you realize that something is wrong with the girl in the journal, but you can’t figure it out. Then, when it’s revealed, I think it has a perfect payoff. It’s not unbelievable and it makes sense in the grand scheme of things. I won’t say much more than the fact that I really enjoyed it.

Overall, I was very pleased with this film. I didn’t have too many problems other than one of the last scenes and sometimes the film dragged in weird places. Other than that, I enjoyed it and was glad that I was surprised. I wouldn’t go in with the highest expectations, but I also wouldn’t assume this is the worst movie that you’ll see.

 

Score: 8 out of 10

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