Directed by Jason Hutt
Cinema Village, opens January 25
Dmitriy Salita is an up-and-coming boxer, a Chabadnik who won't fight on Shabbat, and a sweet and decent young man from Brooklyn via Odessa. This is a newsworthy enough combination to have gotten him an invite to George Bush's Hanukkah party, which made his day. But it's not quite enough to qualify him for colorful-character status, let alone fill up the center of Jason Hutt's mildly absorbing vérité trot through the pugilist's quest for a junior title that will put him on the pro-boxing map. Hutt followed Salita around for three years, diligently trying to tease out a theme from the threads of this impeccably brought-up lad's devotion to the sport, a calling that saw him through his mother's premature death. Jews were the dominant ethnic minority in U.S. boxing between the world wars, so it will hardly do to position him, as Hutt does, as something new in the history of sporting Semites. What's more, Salita is such a careful, reined-in fellow that one comes away wanting to have seen much more of the men around him: the grizzled African-American trainer who shows such tender respect for his protégé's religious observance; the red-headed rabbi who doesn't quite get his disciple's dedication to beating the crap out of human flesh; the quiet handler who whips up kosher meals in Vegas hotel rooms; and the charismatic Jewish reggae singer Matisyahu, who frequently warms up for this likable but stolid young boxer and could teach him a thing or two about grandstanding.