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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Joe and Max (2002)

"Allow me to understand you fully. A German's only possibility of becoming the world champion hinges on a Jew's influence?"
- Adolph Hitler (Rolf Kanies)

Review By: Brian Calhoun   
Published: May 01, 2003

Stars: Til Schweiger, Leonard Roberts, Richard Roundtree
Other Stars: David Paymer, Peta Wilson
Director: Steve James

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for fight sequences and brief strong language
Run Time: 01h:53m:36s
Release Date: January 14, 2003
UPC: 043396103733
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ C+A-B+ D-

DVD Review

It is with great regret that I have to give Joe and Max a negative review. The true story of champion boxers Joe Lewis and Max Schmeling is an interesting one and it makes for a potentially compelling film. Unfortunately, Joe and Max is so disjointed, so randomly pieced together, that it was impossible for me to feel anything other than apathy towards these characters. While I enjoyed watching this noble effort by a gifted filmmaker, the film fails to deliver an emotional punch.

Joe and Max documents the true story of America's "brown bomber," Joe Louis (Leonard Roberts), and Germany's greatest fighter, Max Schmeling (Til Schweiger), the world renowned fighters who boxed each other on two separate occasions during the onset of World War II and eventually forged a long lasting friendship. The story, while enjoyable, is plagued by overt melodrama, lackluster character portrayals, and an often hurried chain of events. The last half hour is particularly muddled, as we witness many years pass in mere minutes. Though the film is, at times, subtly profound, many other moments are far too pretentious and heavy handed to be taken seriously.

Joe and Max was directed by Steve James, who gave us the extraordinary basketball documentary, Hoop Dreams. After seeing both films, it is apparent that James possesses more talent for recognizing drama within a real-life situation rather than attempting to dramatize a fictional account of a real-life situation. The film does feature a great extent of information pertaining to these two men's lives, yet most of this information feels irrelevant while the more important elements simply flash by. I believe there is a much larger story to be told about Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, and a much more interesting one as well. There is a fascinating tale within this subject matter, but unfortunately, Joe and Max does not succeed at telling it.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image transfer is quite impressive for a low budget film. Though the picture is often grainy and dusky during darker scenes, this intentional device adds a stylish appearance to the picture. Color is bold and vibrant throughout, and video noise is minimal. The only distracting deficiency I noticed was minor edge enhancement, though its presence is rarely obtrusive.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is strong and boasts exceptional fidelity. The moving musical score expands over the wide soundstage with distinguished transition between the crisp highs and deep lows. The rear channels are used sparingly, but when engaged, they tastefully complement the already expansive soundfield. Joe and Max is predominately a dialogue-driven film, and the spoken words are always clear intelligible. I detected no distortion or fidelity problems.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Men in Black II, Spider-Man, xXx
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: No special features are available, with the exception of three trailers unrelated to Joe and Max.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Joe and Max is a potentially interesting story hampered by a disjointed screenplay. While I cannot offer an exuberant recommendation, those who find interest in this factual story might want to consider renting this mildly entertaining film.


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