(Don Shebib, 1976)
I'd swear this was an answer film to "Rocky" except the damn thing came out six months earlier! It certainly does have its comparative uses, though, presenting the insatiable drive to win as a neurotic diversion rather than a panacea. James Naughton is not particularly likeable in the lead role, and that's the idea: he lets his midlife crisis distract himself from his work as a stock broker (which is understandable) and his marriage to Lindsay Wagner (which is pathological). But the ever-generous Shebib neither mocks his ambitions nor punishes him unduly for his self-absorption; he just denies the ordeal the mythic redemptive powers that such narratives (including his own "Running Brave") assumed in the shadow of Stallone. Admittedly, the training narrative draws Shebib away from his strength, which is to be found in the modestly eccentric interactions with the teeming support cast - who else would have deployed rejected hottie Tedde Moore in such a kind and unexpected way? The movie would be very close to the precarious balance it strives for, if only it weren't stampeded by the clownish triumphalism of Hagood Hardy's awesomely obnoxious score.