Big George Foreman Review

Big George Foreman
George Foreman (Khris Davis), coming from humble beginnings in Houston, Texas, joins the Job Corps. There, he is trained by Charles "Doc" Broadus (Forest Whitaker) to become a world champion boxer. After a religious experience, George begins a second career as a preacher — before making an unlikely comeback in the ring.

by John Nugent |
Published on
Release Date:

28 Apr 2023

Original Title:

Big George Foreman

Ironically for a man latterly famous for grilling, there’s nothing very lean about this two-hour-plus boxer-born-again biopic, which falls into the familiar rise-and-fall trap of telling too much and therefore not enough. Spanning over half a century of chronology, it strives to tell the full remarkable story of George Foreman (played by an excellent Khris Davis), the heavyweight boxing world champion turned preacher turned world champion again.

Big George Foreman

The cinematic route makes a certain amount of sense: Foreman is a formidable character. He had a troubled and sometimes violent childhood; won an Olympic gold medal within a year of his boxing career; won the world heavyweight title aged 24; became a pastor after having two religious experiences; and made an unprecedented return to the sport in middle age, becoming the oldest world champion ever. He has had, by any measure, a fairly extraordinary life.

The breakneck race through Foreman's life is liable to give you whiplash.

Which perhaps is why it’s a little bit of a shame that director George Tillman Jr. largely opts for the ordinary, choosing to follow conventional biopic rules. Most of his achievements are couched in the overly knowing irony of historical foresight, the script always stressing that everyone underestimated George (except God, of course). But what kind of guy is he? Towards the end of the film, it's mentioned that George named all six of his sons George, plus a daughter named Georgetta. This doesn’t quite square with the George we’ve spent time with on screen: where was this goofy eccentric? The pace of the storytelling means his motivations — Foreman had anger issues as a young man — feel blunt, only the surfaces scratched.

Like its protagonist, the film is sincere and affectionate, almost to a fault. It is clearly a film made with great respect for its subject, and will undoubtedly delight fans. Foreman himself is listed as an executive producer in the credits, and it’s occasionally telling which details are left in and which aren’t; only two of Foreman’s four wives are deemed worthy of inclusion, for example, and one of them he woos, marries and divorces within the space of about ten minutes.

If the breakneck race through Foreman’s life is liable to give you whiplash, the boxing scenes, surely the centrepiece of a film like this, fall a bit flat too. Tillman Jr is clearly a fan of Neil Leifer’s famous overhead shot of a boxing ring, but even with the odd stylistic flourish, he can’t quite escape the tropes of the genre; slow-motion punches, sweat beads flying, and a training montage are rarely far away. It’s emblematic of a film that too often simply pulls its punches.

An all-too conventional look at an unconventional man, Big George Foreman is, alas, a swing and a miss.
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