Manny Review

Liam Neeson narrates this excellent documentary about Manny Pacquiao

Boxing fans know the name of Manny Pacquiao. Widely considered the best pound-for-pound boxer in the entire world, he is the only man to ever hold championship belts in eight different weight classes. The Filipino boxing sensation is a legend in his native Philippines and a national icon over there, having already been elected to their Congress in 2010. Manny is a feature documentary narrated by Liam Neeson. It provides a glimpse into Pac-Man’s career highlights through archival footage and candid interviews with a number of luminaries from across the boxing world. A celebration of Manny Pacquiao’s amazing career, Manny hits just the right spots for boxing fans.

The reason this documentary is getting promoted now is the upcoming fight between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. The fight has been anticipated since 2009 when accusations started flying that Floyd Mayweather, Jr. was ducking the fight with Manny. Billed as The Fight of the Century, their feud will be settled in the ring. The documentary includes an older ESPN interview with Mayweather where the brash boxer proclaims himself the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world since he’s never lost.

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This documentary is a lucid accounting of Manny’s career and background, loosely touching on Manny Pacquiao’s family and close associates. Smoothly directed by Ryan Moore and Leon Gast (When We Were Kings), it provides a cursory overview of Pacquiao’s best moments in the ring while dealing with his controversial defeat at the hands of Timothy Bradley. Manny’s electrifying style of boxing is shown in vivid archival fight footage. The feature does a decent job of humanizing the boxing icon, showing him in the Philippines visiting his childhood village. Manny Pacquiao grew up in extreme poverty and saw boxing as a way to provide for his family.

… this feature glosses over shadier aspects of the boxing world.

Freddie Roach, Manny’s long-time boxing trainer, looms large in this documentary. Suffering from Parkinson’s Disease due to the blows he received as a boxer himself, Roach has helped shape Manny’s boxing career more than any other man. Freddie Roach talks openly about the early days of Manny’s career, when he quickly realized the Filipino’s immense talent. Other pivotal figures in the boxing world are followed and interviewed, including sleazy promoter Bob Arum. One thing that Manny as a documentary avoids is in-depth criticism of the boxing world and its largely crooked system. Other than a brief mention of problems that Manny Pacquiao had with his first manager, this feature glosses over shadier aspects of the boxing world. Which is not surprising, this a hagiography about Manny Pacquiao, not a hard-hitting exposé.

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Manny is at its best when covering the major fights of Pacquiao’s boxing career such as his stunning decimation of Oscar De La Hoya. It takes a detour to cover the man’s political activities in the Philippines, positing that work as a reason for his knock-out loss to Marquez in 2012. The documentary concludes the boxing legend spread himself too thin with commitments between boxing and his political career. Kept on the sidelines and briefly heard in Manny are members of Pacquiao’s family, including his wife Jinkee. It only obliques references Manny’s reported womanizing and heavy gambling, preferring to focus on his faith and work ethic.

If you have followed boxing over the past decade, Manny is an entertaining look back at one of history’s best boxers. The documentary celebrates his career and provides enough context that you get a very good sense of Manny’s fun personality. Manny Pacquiao is a huge fan of older love ballads and loves to sing despite lacking much vocal talent. A hilarious clip from the Jimmy Kimmel show has Will Ferrell and Manny Pacquiao singing John Lennon’s Imagine together. Those lighter moments help the nicely paced feature a great deal.

Movie ★★★★☆

Manny is rated PG-13 for some sport violence and bloody images. It runs 87 minutes.

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