Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World is a film that has to cover a lot of legendary moments. We are talking about a man who was an Olympic champion, the world champion at 24 years old, the oldest world champion at age 45 and the face of the new wave of health-centric electronic cookware. Narrowing his life into a run-time suitable for a motion picture is a tall ask, but George Tillman Jr does an excellent job distilling the best moments and best fights into the movie.
Big George Foreman is a biopic with a big heart and is refreshingly earnest. Khris Davis does a masterful job portraying the big man. Not only does he have to convincingly portray the physicality of a man who, in his prime, was built like a brick outhouse, but also the more rotund and older tank he became during his second world title reign.
Filling up the supporting cast are great actors like Forest Whitaker as George Foreman’s mentor and father figure Doc Broadus, the most important dynamic in Big George Foreman. Sonja Sohn is also fantastic as George’s mother and north star.
One of the most sparkling performances is Sullivan Jones as Muhammad Ali. He jumps off the screen with a reserved performance that avoids impersonation. He doesn’t try to sound entirely like Ali but still manages to make his charisma ooze out of the screen, making his and Davis’ performances together shine.
One of the most significant themes that Big George Foreman tackles is George’s Christian faith and how he became a devout Christian and pastor, which is a tricky tightrope to walk. It’s easy to fall into preaching to the audience. It stays on the right side of that issue, but your mileage may vary depending on how you feel about religion and Christianity.
George’s faith isn’t just about his character. It’s also one of the first dominos in a chain of events that sets him on the path to becoming the world’s oldest world champion, so his faith needs to be explored for this to happen.
Once George does find faith, it not only transforms the character, it alters the performance of Khris Davis and allows him to show more of his range, comedically and dramatically. The transformation of George also leads to some of Big George Foreman’s more fun moments and, of course, the montage!
And this being a boxing movie does mean there are fight scenes, which are, for the most part, very good. They are hard-hitting and go for a more realistic style rather than a flashier and more cinematic feeling. Punches hit with a dull thud rather than a high-pitch snare sound. The action is in close mixed in with POVs to bring you in even closer. The only downside is the apparent use of computer-generated imagery to generate or composite the crowds. A fight later in the film tries to mix real-world footage with the film’s stars, and the execution is not great. But ropey CGI is not enough to dent this film.
George Tillman Jr has directed a fantastic biopic, a must-watch for boxing fans. Big George Foreman captures the insane breadth of George Foreman’s career and the sweetness of his greatest triumphs. Khris Davis is fantastic at the helm, and I look forward to seeing more from him. Big George Foreman is a must-watch for fans of the sweet science.
Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of the World is out in cinemas April 28th.