Elephant Heart

Director: Zuli Aladag

2002. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo. 100 mins.

Daniel Bruhl, the very personable young star of the Wolfgang Becker hit Good Bye, Lenin!, tackles a much tougher role in Turkish-born director Zuli Aladag’s boxing drama Elephant Heart. Bruhl plays Marko, a young amateur boxer who dreams of going professional. Working in a tedious day job and still living at home, where everyone tiptoes around the alcoholic outbursts of the unemployed father, Marko’s only joy comes from training at the local gym. Surprised to be taken on as a pro by shady promoter Gerd (Manfred Zapatka), Marko blows his chance and gets trounced in his first real match. Lacking discipline and always feeling down on his luck, the young fighter simply runs on rage in the ring. His first defeat comes as things go from bad to worse at home, and Marko seems headed for a downward spiral when he finds himself playing enforcer for his mentor’s protection rackets. It’s a familiar scenario, but Aladag’s deft, atmospheric direction combines with strong performances to keep most of the boxing-movie cliches at arm’s length.

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