1992's Gladiator is an anomaly. The political environment and how it portrays race wouldn't likely fly by today's standards. The era in which it was made, in a sense, dates the film, yet due to the visual aesthetic and over-the-top characters and action, Gladiator is still an entertaining watch in 2023.
The film stars James Marshall as Tommy Riley, a high school kid who recently moved to Chicago, and follows him through dealing with bullies at school, loan sharks, and an illegal underground boxing world.
In the world of Gladiator, the group of students that Riley interacts with all seem to be involved in boxing somehow and often hilariously results in some strange situations.
The overall cast elevates the movie with Cuba Gooding Jr. playing Lincoln Haines, a fellow high school student and boxer who looks out for Riley and vice versa. Rounding out the ensemble are Ossie Davis, Robert Loggia, and Brian Dennehy.
Dennehy, in particular, channels his performance in 1982's First Blood as the over-the-top no-nonsense antagonist of unscrupulous boxing promoter Jimmy Horn.
Gladiator takes some influence from films like Bloodsport, with the fights being, at times, ludicrously no-holds-barred. Possibly even more violent since these are fights between teenagers in high school that take place in front of groups of gamblers.
For those that have never seen Gladiator, it is unique and stands out as an early 1990s-style film that won't likely reemerge for better or worse.