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The Great White Hype Review

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Sultan (Jackson) is a boxing promoter who's sick of his champ knocking everyone out, so sets up a rumble in the Las Vegas (jungle) with a fresh faced white boy. This incites all manner of racial tension and sets the all-important cash tills ringing nearly as loudly as the knock-out bells.

★★★★

You can see why this boxing comedy was greenlighted so quickly. The script, a sassy tale of ringside corruption, was polished by Ron Shelton; the cast included men of the moment Jackson and Jeff Goldblum while hip, black director Reginald Hudlin took megaphone duties. What a pity, then, to finally see a flabby, brain-dead satire panting on the ropes for dear life.

Jackson plays Sultan, a thinly disguised take on promoter Don King, who - tired of chumps continually getting walloped by his undefeated heavyweight wunderkind (a nasty Wayans) - decides to hire the titular fresh-faced white boy (Berg) for a Las Vegas showdown that incites racial tension, garners huge media coverage and sets the all-important cash tills ringing.

Goldblum is the self-righteous documentarian seduced by Sultan's persuasive powers who quits the crusade and cuts himself in on the deal. The only standout, however, is Berg's spunky blue-collar contender, aiming to sock the overfed champ with his legendary right-hand.

A knockout satire on the page has been turned into a circus farce on screen and placing the blame is difficult since everybody performs under par. Jackson, normally the scene-stealer, spams it up to varying degrees and Goldblum is oddly dull.

Even the script, though peppered with Shelton-esque observations, telegraphs the "surprise" twist a good half hour before its arrival, and the film is shot and cut with such ham-fisted gusto that it makes Oliver Stone seem like Terence Davies. It coulda been a contender - instead it is merely a criminal waste of talent.

It coulda been a contender - instead it is merely a criminal waste of talent.