C

Orthodox Stance

Early in Orthodox Stance, up-and-coming pugilist Dmitriy Salita undercuts much of the documentary's ostensible drama by claiming he sees no conflict whatsoever between his strong Orthodox Jewish convictions and his profession as a would-be prize fighter. The film does little to contradict his claims. Promoters and fans go out of their way to accommodate Salita's religion, and he apparently abstains from all the vices and temptations of the boxing game. Besides, boxing and Orthodox Judaism have more in common than most people imagine. Both rely heavily on faith, traffic in rituals and repetition, and encourage rigid self-discipline and Spartan self-denial. Yet the film never makes this association between seemingly antithetical entities, instead coasting way too heavily on the superficial novelty of a godly man making his living by beating the crap out of strangers.

Like generations of boxers before him, Salita grew up poor and hungry, a Russian immigrant deeply scarred by his mother's death. He found a productive outlet in boxing, winning Golden Gloves and steadily ascending the amateur and professional ranks. Orthodox documents Salita's battles toward a title shot. In the process, he rubs elbows with Matisyahu (who offers to write a song about him, and performs before one of his fights), NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and President Bush, who invites Salita to a Hanukkah celebration/photo op.

Salita comes off as a nice, reserved, dedicated young man with a good head on his shoulders, albeit one that gets clobbered regularly. He seems deeply devoted to his sport and his religion, which makes him a good guy, but a fairly dull subject for a documentary, especially since he appears to have already mastered the fine art of issuing blandly positive sound-bites that give reporters (and documentarians) what they need to do their job, but not much more. When champ Floyd Mayweather makes a flashy, motormouth appearance, he throws Salita's stoic reserve into even sharper relief. Of course, not every boxer can be as batshit insane as Mike Tyson. But the world would be much more entertaining if they were. This well-meaning but fairly dull film would be, too.

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