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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Foxcatcher

I’m not a big fan of sports films. Hell, I’m not a big fan of sports. And I’m especially not a fan of wrestling. So, when I first heard about an ‘untitled Channing Tatum wrestling film’ in production, I put my head in my hands and expected Magic Mike 2: The Wrestling Years. I thought it was just a vehicle for Tatum to parade around topless for a couple of hours and flex his guns for the ladies. I then noticed Steve Carell was to play a part. Oh great, I thought. Tatum parading around topless in a wrestling comedy – this just gets worse and worse. But as the marketing for the film began, I realised how wrong I was. Foxcatcher is as far from comedy as you can get. And you know what? It’s not really a wrestling film, either.


Directed by Bennett Miller of Capote and Moneyball fame, Foxcatcher is out now on DVD & Blu-Ray. So, is it worth your time? First of all, Foxcatcher tells an almost unbelievable tale, based on a shocking true story. In the 1980s, eccentric multimillionaire and wrestling enthusiast John du Pont (Carell) built a private training facility on his large estate in Philadelphia. Mark Schultz (Tatum) was an Olympic wrestler but was always overshadowed by his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo); also a wrestler. These three people came together in a union that led to an unexpectedly violent end. I don’t want to spoil the plot – try not to read anything, about the film or the history, before you watch it. This truly harrowing story of ambition and control is best experienced with no knowledge of where it’s going. 


The main thing to note about Foxcatcher is the central performances. Channing Tatum is decent enough as Mark; displaying a good amount of emotion during his quiet and understated performance. But there’s nothing about him that stands out or deserves any great praise. This is evident in this year’s Academy Awards nominations – he’s the only actor from the central three that didn’t receive a nomination. Mark Ruffalo is exceptionally good as Mark’s brother Dave, and further cements his position as one of my favourite actors working today. But Foxcatcher truly belongs to Carell, who will make your skin crawl with his phenomenal performance as John du Pont. Everything about the performance is perfect, and Carell deserves all the praise under the sun. He’s shown us his dramatic side before in Little Miss Sunshine, but never quite like this. He is terrifyingly good in this film and owned every scene. One of the finest performances in recent years.

This is a performance and dialogue driven piece. It is a dark, slow drama about people. It is not a ‘wrestling film’. Don’t expect to see many fights, and when you do, don’t expect a big deal to be made around them. There is very little music in this quiet film and very little tension to the sporting side of things. It’s a film about troubled people, who just happen to be involved in wrestling. The cinematography reflects this, with very little colour to be found anywhere – and when you do find a splash of colour, it’s rather muted. A lot of people have been put off by the slow pacing and overly bleak feel to the film. But they forget, this is a true story, and a horrible one. It needs to be told accordingly, out of respect to those involved. To make it an action-packed sporting film would be very wrong. It is a deeply affecting story and not for the faint-hearted. Similar to The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke, the wrestling is but background to the deep character study in the foreground.

The only problem, albeit a minor one, is that while it is an exceptionally well made film that will stay with you for a short while after the credits have rolled, it does have a bit of a ‘forgettable’ feel to it as time goes on. I saw it in the cinema back in January and, by this point when the DVD/Blu-Ray was released, I had mostly forgotten its existence! I watched it again prior to reviewing it and while it hasn’t lost the majority of its power, I wasn’t left with quite the same emotional impact as I was the first time round. And, I can’t imagine watching it again now. But, that’s no major gripe. If you haven’t seen it yet, definitely give it a look. Just don’t expect to be revisiting it often – you might find that one viewing is enough. Must resist urge to plug CeX’s trade-in service...


Foxcatcher is a fantastic piece of work, from the expert directing of Bennett Miller to the phenomenal acting of Ruffalo and Carell. And maybe Tatum is just as good as them, but like the character of Mark in the film, is overshadowed by more ‘showy’ performances. There is very little to fault with the hauntingly beautiful Foxcatcher. If it is indeed a ‘sports movie’; then it is the deepest, darkest, most compelling and most chilling one the genre has to offer.

Foxcatcher takes you into the ring and brings forth an almighty emotional beat down. 5/5.

★★★★★

Sam Love


Foxcatcher at CeX


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