So I dug up an oldie but I thought maybe goodie over the weekend. It had probably been well over 20 years since I had last seen it, but while digging through some internet databases of sports movies throughout history, this one popped up. I had a vague recollection of liking it, but I had to watch it again to make sure that two decades of moderate to heavy drinking didn’t cloud my memory.
The Movie: Diggstown
The Sport: Boxing
The Oversimplified Plot: Washed up boxer takes on a town’s toughest ten dudes back to back as part of a con.
Key Cast Members: James Woods, Lou Gossett Jr. Oliver Platt, Bruce Dern
The Good: First off, the cast is great. Gossett kind of gets whatever the recollective equivalent is of typecast. Show of hands, who thinks of anything other than Iron Eagle when his name comes up? Exactly. When it comes to Woods, people tend to get justifiably distracted by the fact that he is sexual predator of children, but he’s had some solid roles, and apparently “career scumbag grifter” falls right into his wheelhouse. Who’da thunk? Dern and Platt’s careers speak for themselves.
In terms of the action, the boxing is decent – way better than all of the Rocky movies to be honest, at the risk of being accused of blasphemy. A few of the bit part guys brought in were former professional boxers Rockey Pepeli and Tex Cobb. Fun fact. Relatively unknown at the time, Jim Caviezel played one of Gossett’s opponents.
The Bad: As decent as the boxing is, fight movies follow a tried and true, and ultimately frustrating script, of the good guy taking a savage beating only to miraculously recover and triumph at the end. One of the things that actually made the first Rocky so great is that he lost to Apollo Creed, a major deviation from Cinderella stories throughout time. Diggstown is no different. In about half of the fights Gossett’s “Honey” Ray Palmer has in the movie, he’s on the verge of getting brutally knocked out before pulling a rabbit out of his hat and getting the win. We know it’s going to happen. For the movie to even exist it HAS to happen. But still.
The script also leaves a ton to be desired. It’s not awful, but for a movie in which comedy is evidently supposed to be a not insignificant part of the appeal, it really falls flat. There’s one hilarious scene where Woods tries to motivate Gossett by telling him all the things his opponent does that are better than him, and follows it up with “but you’re black.” Rereading that sentence now, maybe it wasn’t that hilarous after all.
Should You Watch It: Eh. One may understand why 41-year-old me doesn’t get the same enjoyment out of a movie that 18-year-old me got, but I’m embarrassingly no more mature now than I was then. Today, I’d gladly recommend a few other sports movies that will provide a greater enjoyment return on your time investment. But on the flip side, I won’t judge you too harshly if you tell me you watched it and enjoyed it.
This is the point in the article where I Google the movie and see if I missed anything worth talking about. Apparently, Diggstown only grossed $4 million plus at the box office – about 25% of what it cost to make the movie. So take that for what it’s worth. I was also reminded in my Googling that I neglected to mention Heather Graham was in the movie. And, uh, yeah, she’s quite hot… but I feel like if you really wanted the Heather Graham hotness experience you’d watch Boogie Nights or something – not for a small role in a mediocre boxing semi-comedy.
Have you seen it? Let us know what you think about it @thestainsports on Twitter.