Review by Caitlin Zeigler
Thomas Haden Church is a homeless man, named Willie, who struggles to get the one thing he truly wants in life, which is to not die alone. He’s a simple man who just wants love, a friend, a companion, just someone there with him. A young rich kid named JJ (Rhys Wakefield), recruits Willie to fight other homeless people for money, with the promise that they are “friends”. JJ and his actual friends record fights and place bets on homeless people brutally fighting each other.
The only thing that keeps Willie going in this world is his new friend and veteran Pinky (Boyd Holbrook) and a diary he found in the dumpster that was thrown out after a fire. The diary contains the words of a little girl who’s struggling to adjust to life without her mother. Willie feels a connection to the girl and the diary that he keeps close by.
This movie is a drama that some people will like and some won’t. It’s shot well and it has some heart-wrenching and heart-warming moments, but there’s still something off with this movie. It wraps up in a way that seems not very likely, but it wanted to give you hope. It has a great cast and the acting is amazing, but some of the big name stars are in it for a moment or two.
Terrence Howard plays Pope, a cab driver who watches over the homeless. He has three or four scenes that establish his character, but the character also seems like it doesn’t really need to be in the movie. Macy Gray was in the movie as “Den Mother” and she plays her part well, but she only has one scene.
The title feels a bit misleading as well. The movie is called ‘Cardboard Boxer’, but Willie is only shown boxing twice and almost a third time. The story is more about Willie wanting to be friends with the girl from the diary and him having hope, losing it and finding it again. If it wasn’t for the fact that the actors acted well and the cinematography was great, the movie would not have been great for just the storyline. It gives an accurate representation of how homeless people survive and are treated, but the story still kind of falls flat.