Brooklyn boxing meets the big screen in ‘Back in the Day’
When a film like “Rocky” gets made, it can be deterrent to others who might like to try their hand in the genre but beg off because the original is so exemplary.
Writer/producer William DeMeo wanted to try his hand at a fight film but was well aware that Sylvester Stallone and company did such a bang up job ticking all the boxes that he’d need to approach such a project from another angle. That’s what the Brooklyner tried to do with his picture “Back in the Day,” which lays out the story of Anthony “Lefty” Rodriguez, a Hispanic/Italian child who grew up amid massive dysfunction in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in the 1980s.
The picture, directed by Paul Borghese, starring DeMeo, and featuring Danny Glover, Alec Baldwin, Annabella Sciorra, Shannen Doherty, Michael Madsen, and some Oscar-worthy efforts from Larry Merchant and Harold Lederman, is in theaters and On Demand now. It had a New York premiere on Tuesday night, in midtown.
“I knew Stallone killed it,” said DeMeo, who appreciated elements of “Raging Bull,” which delved into the temperament of fighters and presented the difficulty in juggling a home life and staying focused on training, as middleweight Rodriguez seeks to do. “I think the timing for ‘Back in the Day’ is perfect. I tried to be as original as I could.”
Rodriguez seeks to find his way with a dad who drinks too much and a mom who sacrifices for him and dotes on him. Too many role models and mentors leave his life and he must rise up and slough off the sadness, to keep the fighting dream alive. We see “Lefty” offer up his whole life arc after a ring triumph to Merchant, playing himself. Of course, the fighter wins some and loses too but it seems like a cameo from Mike Tyson buoyed him as he waited to enter the ring for his title shot.
DeMeo offered high praise for cast member Baldwin, playing a mob boss. “He came in with no ego,” he said of the actor. “He gave his all, didn’t just come for the paycheck.”
Disclosure: I too didn’t just come for the paycheck and tried to sound A-grade when doing a voiceover as a blow-by-blow man for the second in-ring fight sequence in the film.
DeMeo trained at the Morris Park Gym, owned by promoter Joe DeGuardia, to make sure he looked the part physically and repped a decent technique level. His abs are no slouch and he shows a solid grasp of fundamentals, so trainer Glover doesn’t need to yell, “Keep your hands up” even once.
The film is in theaters largely around the tri-state area. The campaign for an Oscar for Merchant begins now.
Little did Michael Woods realize, that with such a big screen voice talent turn such as his, the Hollywood offers would start flooding in. Look for Woodsy’s role as “Poindexter” in “Felix the Cat and the Temple of Doom: Electric Boogaloo,” coming straight to VHS, this summer.
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