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Cobb

Director: Ron Shelton


Cobb is unanimously (well, as far as this film is concerned anyway) thought of as the greatest baseball player of all time – as evinced by his amazing career statistics and fearsome attacking style. All of which earned him a super-bastard reputation he compounded with off-field bigotry, cruelty, misogyny and all round scumbaggery.
However, Ron Shelton, filmdom’s biggest sports fan (director also of Bull Durham and White Men Can’t Jump), mercifully saves us from yet another rise and fall movie by concentrating on Cobb’s last years. The aged Cobb (Tommy Lee Jones) engages sports writer Al Stump (Rober Wuhl) to write his biography and drags him cross country to a Hall of Fame event, shocking the journey en route with gonzoid behaviour which sinks to heavy racial sexual abuse and frequent discharges of the gun he packs as a compensation for impotence.
By opening with newsreel footage and having a media man investigate the life of a great American, Cobb borrows much from Orson Welle’s Citizen Kane, but also – weirdly enough – Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries: a road movie about a miserable old git travelling to a celebration of his career in the company of a younger person who hates him. In the latter, both protagonists are forced to confront their own character flaws and maybe learn something about life in general. Here, Shelton’s pithy and resonant dialogue give Cobb a freshness all of its own.
Terrific ballplayer, miserable human being. Unworthy subject, great movie.

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