Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World – Film Review
by Frank L
Director – George Tillman Jr.
Writers – Frank Baldwin, George Tillman Jr., Dan Gordon
Stars – Khris Davis, Jasmine Mathews, Sullivan Jones
The use of the adjective “Big” in the title is appropriate. Foreman is a big man and stands six foot four inches. He is a heavyweight boxer and an Olympic gold medallist. He became the Heavyweight Champion of the World in 1973.
There are also a number of things you may not know about George unless you have an interest in Boxing (skip this paragraph if you consider these Spoilers). He lost his World Title in 1974 to Muhammad Ali in the Rumble in the Jungle. After this, he then underwent a religious epiphany and became an ordained Christian minister. He was defrauded of his substantial wealth and as a result went back after 10 years to boxing, now aged 45. Remarkably at that improbable age, he won back the heavyweight championship. He also began a new entrepreneurial business career, which flourished.
There is a great deal to condense into a two-hour film, as Foreman started out from abject poverty and as a teenager in Houston, Texas, he was going in the wrong direction until he joined a Job Corps. There he discovered the discipline of boxing and his world began to alter. He was married four times by the time he was 33 years but then met his fifth wife when he was 36. That marriage continues!
The film proceeds chronologically from his troubled teenage age years to the winning of the heavyweight championship and the events that caused him to return to the boxing ring. While his relationship with his mother is ever present throughout the film his earlier marriages are not prominent with the exception of the first.
Foreman is the executive producer and Tillman draws you in from the beginning to be on the side of Foreman even if he as a teenager was a mugger. From the beginning, Foreman had innate intelligence as is shown in an early sequence as he deflects a cop’s sniffer dog from his telltale scent after he had been involved in a mugging.
Foreman is played by Khris Davis, and his all-important boxing mentor from the Job Camp is played by Forest Whitaker. Sonja Sohn plays his devout, hardworking mother. In the latter part of the story, he is joined by his fifth wife Mary Joan (Jamine Mathews) who is a strong background presence in his life. Tillman jr does not flinch from showing the sheer violence of the boxing ring and this tough world helps to explain Foreman’s determination to overcome what often must have seemed insurmountable challenges.
Given the sheer scale of his life, there is little time to indulge in long periods of character analysis. This is a story of a man of action who uniquely regained the heavyweight boxing championship of the world after an interlude of ten years. Tillman jr keeps this unique story moving at a spanking pace throughout.
The world of boxing may deter some from attending this straight-down-the-line film. But as a film, it is engaging and it is impossible not to admire Foreman’s tenacity. His achievements are remarkable.
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