Showtimes Marciano Lacks Punch

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Showtime's movie about the only undefeated heavyweight
boxing champ "coulda been a contender," but for several reasons, Rocky
Marciano
goes down for the count.

In trying to make this more than a boxing film, producer
Rob Cowan and director Charles Winkler, who also helped to write the teleplay, blend too
many story lines: romance, family and hero worship.

Worse, Winkler, of Rocky and Raging Bull
fame, clobbers dramatic momentum with his overreliance on the flashback technique to
squeeze in all of those elements. He constantly flashes back to the past and forward to
1969.

Moreover, the movie dwells too much on the fighter's
obsession with getting cash and on his supposed fixation with Joe Louis.

Still, Jon Favreau does a capable job as the Rock, and Judd
Hirsch and Tony Lo Bianco give suitably sleazy portrayals as Marciano's underworld
managers.

We learn from flashbacks to 1938 that young Rocco
Marchegiano doesn't intend to toil away in a shoe factory like his father (George C.
Scott, in a well-done cameo), and that father and son share a love of boxing.

The two men listening to the live radio broadcast as
Rocky's hero, Louis, defeats Max Schmeling starts a thread that is woven -- too much
-- into this drama's fabric.

In a 1949 flashback, we see Marciano prepare for a Madison
Square Garden match where the newly retired Louis (Duane Davis) appears. That bout, which
ended his opponent's career, leaves Rocky struggling with guilt until his fiancée
reminds him that Louis overcame similar guilt.

Rocky's managers threaten to drop him when he
initially balks at fighting his hero in their famous 1951 match. As he tells his fiancée,
"I like the guy I'm fighting against more than the guys I'm fighting
for."

While Winkler's Marciano-Lewis fight scenes don't
resemble the rock 'em/sock 'em fakery of Rocky, they unfortunately do
give the knockout that ended Louis' comeback a very choreographed look.

Given the moviemakers' obsession with Louis, the story
ends there, one year before Marciano wins the crown and four years before his last fight
-- but not before he visits Louis in a sanitarium.

Rocky Marciano, due May 15 at 8 p.m., will anchor a
Showtime boxing night, packaged with Rocky, Raging Bull and a live boxing
card.

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