The Finn family of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn has a tradition they take very seriously—Father and Son, going back three generations, box each other in the basement every Friday night and the first time the son knocks the father down, he enters the Golden Gloves and is taught the secrets to being a man in the world. Kind of like a violent Bar Mitzvah. The film tells the story of Billy Finn, age 19, a good kid who is next in line for this pugilistic glory. He, at first, is very excited about his prospects in the Gloves; he loves boxing and possesses a measure of natural ability.
The training his father, Buster, a New York City Policeman, puts him through is much more than he bargained for. Buster tries to make Billy a killer in the ring by teaching him to fear blacks and distrust women, prejudices learned the hard way in his own life. "Fear is like fire," Buster says, "If you use it right it can heat your house and cook food, but if it gets out of control it can burn you down and kill you. You must be the master of your fear."
Billy begins to change; there is a time bomb that has been lit inside him As he rises through the ranks of the Golden Gloves, his vicious behavior gets more and more extreme. Devin, Billy's emotionally needy girlfriend, is frightened by his metamorphosis and quickly realizes that she is going to be shut out of this new equation. She fights Buster for possession of Billy's soul. Billy must forge his own path for himself and try to break the brutal cycle that has been passed down from father to son in the Finn Family.
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