Cinema Review: Cardboard Boxer | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, September 23rd, 2021  

Cardboard Boxer

Studio: Well Go USA Entertainment
Directed by Knate Gwaltney

Sep 12, 2016 Web Exclusive
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Thomas Haden Church is an unnamed homeless man in Knate Gwaltney’s new drama, Cardboard Boxer. More than one consumed with hunger, survival, and a sleep-with-one-eye-open mentality, the protagonist’s is a life defined by loneliness. Hayden Church’s poorly educated, slightly mentally handicapped character feels adrift in a world with no one to whom he can talk or connect. One night, he finds the charred remains of an apartment fire in a dumpster. Among the burned items is a young girl’s diary. Hayden Church takes the book, teaches himself how to decipher the cursive handwriting, and soon finds in its author a kindred spirit. Though the two have never crossed paths, he begins an epistolary relationship with her, writing responses to her journal entries and sending them off into the city as paper airplanes – a modern day pen pal meets message in the bottle dialogue.

The diary entries work beautifully as an unconventional narrative device. Through them, we learn of the hardships faced by the journal’s young author (the death of her mother and subsequent abuse at the hands of her uncle turned guardian). In his responses, Haden Church sheds light on his own characters misfortunes, the greatest of which remains his solitude. He doesn’t even seek her out; the journal doesn’t become the quest it so easily could have otherwise. It’s simply a way for them to connect, whether they are both aware of that bridge or not.

Had this been the whole film, Gwaltney’s could have been a completely and genuinely moving piece of independent cinema. However, the writer-director (better known for producing a handful of Jackass films) ties in a second plotline, one much less sentimental. The protagonist finds himself duped into a fight-for-money scheme perpetrated by a handful of rich teenagers, who frequent the cardboard box communities looking to incite and film bareknuckle combat (hence, the title). Haden Church wanders into and out of these fights as nonchalantly as he roams the city by day, and while they actually mesh with the diary plotline better than one would imagine, they undo a lot of the emotional investment built by the inchoate pen pal setup. The disparate elements aren’t enough to render Cardboard Boxer two films in one, but rather one film with a decisive and deep schism within.

Author rating: 5.5/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10


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ron gwaltney
September 14th 2016

Our son wrote and directed “Cardboard Boxer”. Thank you for your review. I think he will learn a great deal about how to become a better film maker by reading reviews of his first movie and from the insights they offer.

March 21st 2021

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