Gladiator (1992 film)

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Not to be confused with Gladiator (2000 film).
"Gladiator (1992)" redirects here. For 1992 TV series, see Gladiators (1992 TV series).
For other uses, see Gladiator (disambiguation).
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Rowdy Herrington
Produced by Frank Price
Stephen J. Roth
Screenplay by Lyle Kessler
Robert Mark Kamen
Story by Djordje Milicevic
Robert Mark Kamen
Starring Cuba Gooding Jr.
James Marshall
Brian Dennehy
Music by Brad Fiedel
Cinematography Tak Fujimoto
Edited by Harry B. Miller III
Peter Zinner
Price Entertainment
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • March 6, 1992 (1992-03-06)
Running time
101 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million[1]
Box office $9.2 million[1][2]

Gladiator is a 1992 American sports drama film directed by Rowdy Herrington, and starring Cuba Gooding Jr., James Marshall, Brian Dennehy, and Robert Loggia. The film tells the story of two teenagers trapped in the world of illegal underground boxing. One is fighting to pay off gambling debts accumulated by his father. The second is fighting for the money to get out of the ghetto. While being exploited by a boxing promoter, the two teens become friends.


Tommy Riley (James Marshall) and his father have just moved in an attempt to start a new life. Tommy's father has accumulated many gambling debts, but has found a new job that requires him to travel extensively, leaving his son alone at home. Tommy also has a hard time fitting in at school, having crossed some gang members led by "Shortcut". A loan shark, named Sharkey, sends two collectors to Tommy Riley's house where he is threatened unless his father pays up $1250 in interest on a $15,000 gambling debt. He takes a job at a local diner and enters into a romantic relationship with Dawn (Cara Buono), the daughter of the owner, but is jumped by the gang members outside the restaurant. Seeing how well Tommy is able to fight, a local boxing promoter by the name of Pappy Jack (Robert Loggia) offers Tommy a chance to fight in an illegal underground boxing operation. Tommy then agrees to fight one match, in exchange for $1,250 dollars in order to pay up the interest on the father's gambling debt.

After his father informs him that he will be alone for some time, Tommy progresses to his first fight. Tommy finds out that Romano (Jon Seda), a fellow student at his school, "Shortcut" as well as Abraham "Lincoln" Haines (Cuba Gooding Jr.) are all part of the illegal boxing matches. For his first fight, Tommy faces off with Black Death, a dirty fighter who uses elbows and low blows as well as a notoriously powerful right hand. To the surprise of many, Tommy upsets Black Death with the aid of his corner man, Noah (Ozzie Davis). The boxing promoter Jimmy Horn (Brian Dennehy) takes an interest in Tommy and attempts to recruit him into his ring of fighters. However, wanting to go on to college, Tommy initially refuses Horn's offers. However, after Horn buys off Tommy's father's $15,000 gambling debt from the loan shark, Tommy agrees to fight five matches in order to wipe off the debts.

Tommy enjoys a great deal of success and develops a friendship with Romano and Abraham "Lincoln" Haines, while he focuses on boxing and begins to ditch school. Later on Tommy learns about the reasons why Romano and Lincoln continue the fight, the former to send his father's body to Cuba and to make money, the latter to support his girlfriend and their baby daughter. Tommy continues to build up his reputation when Romano has a match against "Shortcut". Initially out boxing "Shortcut" with his footwork and speed, Romano is confident during the start of the fourth round. However, "Shortcut" secretly has his corner man apply a blinding fluid to his gloves in hopes of slowing down Romano. During the fourth round, Romano once again dominates "Shortcut" while Tommy watches and cheers him on. "Shortcut" then puts Romano in a headlock and rubs the fluid onto Romano's eyes giving him blurred vision. Unable to defend himself, "Shortcut" brutally beats Romano, until Tommy rings the bell in place of the distracted judges. Enraged by Shortcut's lack of sportsmanship, Tommy attacks Shortcut until they are broken apart.

After this match, Tommy begins to search for Romano by searching through hospitals. It is not until Noah advises Tommy to search the hospital for the poor and indigent where he finally finds a beat up Romano in a coma and declared brain dead. Enraged by this, Tommy fights Shortcut in his next match. However, before the match starts, Tommy notices Shortcut rubbing his gloves together. When Shortcut tries to put Tommy into a headlock, Tommy lifts him up and slams him on the ground before fluid gets into his eyes. Defending himself from a kick, Tommy then punches Shortcut under the belt and proceeds to beat him into submission, but he stops short of the savagery Horn and Pappy Jack want him to display and he lets Shortcup drop to the mat.

Later, Lincoln shows signs of possible brain damage as a result of a kick to the head, and is told to quit fighting for at least 60 days or else suffer permanent brain damage. Despite this, Horn arranges a match between Lincoln and Tommy with 20 grand to the winner. Afraid of killing Lincoln, Tommy takes a beating until Lincoln is unwilling to kill Tommy as he was earlier saved by him, saying "damn you to hell" due to his loss of his only livelihood. In revenge, Horn, a former boxer himself who lost only one fight, punches Lincoln severely enough to knock him out of the ring.

Furious, Tommy challenges Horn to a match: If Horn wins, Tommy will continue to work for him indefinitely, but if Tommy wins, his father's debt is wiped clean. Horn accepts on the condition that they fight bare-knuckle. Horn's vast experience with boxing initially gives him the upper hand, and Horn's confidence influences him to play with and humiliate Tommy as a result. Tommy eventually uses the various forms of advice he's received throughout his brief boxing experience to outthink Horn: he fakes a broken hand to give Horn even more confidence, and then uses the element of surprise to finish him off, freeing himself from Horn's contract. Tommy and Lincoln shake hands, affirming their friendship. Tommy tells Noah, "Make your enemy think you are weak when you are really strong." Noah smiles as he hugs the champion Tommy.



Gladiator was critically panned.[3][4][5] On film aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 25% rating, with an average score of 4.4/10, based on reviews from 12 critics.[6]


A soundtrack containing a blend of hip hop and rock music was released on February 25, 1992 by Columbia Records It failed to make it to the Billboard charts, but Warrant's cover of "We Will Rock You" was a minor hit on the Billboard 200, peaking at #83. The soundtrack also contained the last appearance by the rap group, 3rd Bass.


  1. ^ a b "Gladiator (1992)". The Wrap. Retrieved February 15, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Gladiator (1992)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 15, 2014. 
  3. ^ Rainer, Peter (March 6, 1992). "Movie Review : 'Gladiator' Packs No Surprise Punches". The LA Times. Retrieved July 14, 2012. 
  4. ^ Maslin, Janet (March 6, 1992). "Gladiator (1992) Review/Film; Corruption And Racial Strife Take Their Toll". New York Times. Retrieved July 14, 2012. 
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 6, 1992). "Gladiator (1992)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved July 14, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Gladiator (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 15, 2014. 

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