In spite of somewhat diminishing popularity in North America, boxing is still one of the more popular sports on the planet, and not since the sports heyday has there been a fighter that has captured the public’s interest like Manny Pacquiao. Manny is the chronicle of his life as he arose from dangerous slums and a troubled past to be a champion both in and outside of the ring.
A rarity in the celebrity bio documentary realm, Manny, illustrates the career highlights that you’d expect while openly confronting the flaws that make Manny Pacquiao such a compelling and interesting subject.
Producer Ryan Moore and co-director Leon Gast (who certainly has experience in following great fighters from his award winning When We Were Kings) and narrator Liam Neeson deliver the standard talking heads and revelations that we would expect, but there’s more than enough meat here for any sports fan to enjoy.
Fans will get a huge kick out of tracking Pacquiao’s humble poor beginnings as a skinny Filipino kid who learns boxing as means to take care of his family. The film takes great care and detail in looking at his rise in the sport. He established a name for himself taking on all comers, but the film also looks at how he got taken advantage of in his early career before becoming a worldwide draw, the face of a sport, a pop culture icon, and social and political leader.
To the film’s credit, it doesn’t shy away from the human side of the equation by mentioning how his multiple interests – especially involvement in the highest levels of government – has spread him too thin, taking a huge toll on his personal life. His reputation for drinking and infidelity are mention and acknowledged. While it never dives into any heavy-handed moments there are plenty of testimonials that are frank enough to take the place of any superfluous dramatics. The admiration for his unrelenting determination is there and comes tempered with the hope that it doesn’t end up hurting him at the end of his career.
While it’s still kind of a split decision, never quite ending up with any sort of concrete opinion on the its subject, Manny gives a degree of balance, allowing audiences to cheer for the man’s successes, but enough caution to make one hope he can walk away from everything before it could take a long term and possibly irreversible toll.