Urban Cinefile
"It's a fantastic thrill to win the Camera d'Or, a big surprise. It's a wonderful treat and so is the money."  -Shirley Barrett, on her Love Serenade win at Cannes
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Monday, October 23, 2017 

Search SEARCH FOR A VIDEO_FILE
Our Review Policy OUR REVIEW POLICY
Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE

Help/Contact

BEYOND THE MAT

SYNOPSIS:
Director Barry Blaustein presents a behind the scenes look at the world of American professional wrestling. Juxtaposed with the hype that is the World Wrestling Federation, is the struggle of the wrestler's personal lives. There are unknowns attempting to find a place for themselves. There is the young family coping with the injuries of the champion, Mick 'Mankind' Foley. Terry Funk, one of the greats, struggles with inevitable retirement. And 'Jake the Snake' Roberts carries his own personal demons from small town to small town, trying to find a life for himself after the heights of the WWF.

"I don't know why I like it, I just always have" are the first words spoken by director Barry Blaustein in his revealing documentary about American pro wrestlers. Ask the legions of fans who make this mix of sport and theatre a $1 billion a year industry and you'd probably get much the same response. As someone who grew up with an almost religious reverence for Channel 9's World Championship Wrestling I can identify with Blaustein's sentiment.

More than any other televised sport, professional wrestling has been revolutionised by marketing to the point where not even those who control it bother to pretend it's anything but an elaborately choreographed act. Other than glimpses of the costume, scriptwriting, music and make-up departments at World Wrestling Federation headquarters, Blaustein doesn't dwell on the point; focussing instead on the wrestlers themselves. Fortunately he's found a collection of combatants whose stories are at the least interesting and, in some cases, genuinely moving.

Finding out what makes these hulking behemoths tick, away from the hype and spectacle, makes this a compelling showbiz story. It's hard not to be affected as Jake The Snake Roberts reveals the ruinous effect of his career on his marriage and relationship with his daughter or by the wife and children of Mick "Mankind" Foley as they look on in horror while dad's bashed to a bloody pulp in a no-holds-barred match.

All the backstage stories are represented in the ranks of these wrestlers who take the idea of giving the public what it wants just about as far as it can go. There's the ageing champ who won't quit (Terry Funk), the black kid from the wrong side of the tracks made good (New Jack), a host of aspiring stars slogging it out in the backwoods hoping for that big break and even the ex-champ who made it big in politics (Governor Jessie Ventura). Blaustein's respect for his subjects and the sensitivity he applies makes this an involving and even uplifting humanisation of a grotesque form of entertainment."
Richard Kuipers

"Against all expectation, Beyond The Mat is a remarkably moving film. Initially there is some concern that director Blaustein (former head writer of Saturday Night Live and writer/producer of many Eddie Murphy films) is too much of a wrestling fan, that the film will be about his love affair with the 'sport'. But as the film progresses his decision to take us on the journey through his eyes really pays off, progressing from a wide eyed approach to a harsh view of the reality of the lives of those who go out there to provide the entertainment.

That said, the editing is a little undisciplined at times but for the most part his nave approach makes for riveting viewing. Blaustein begins with a broad canvas, showing us aspirants on both the wrestling and promotional front. Particularly astonishing is the gimmick offered by ex-footballer Darren Drozdov: he can vomit at will.

Witnessing this in an audition for WWF, head honcho Vince McMahon decides he will go by the handle 'Puke'. The real appeal of the film though, is yet to come. Blaustein focuses on the lives of three current and former champions. And what stories he has evoked. Terry Funk's struggles with retirement are a study in the psychology of fame, of human value. Jake 'The Snake' Roberts carries an horrific family background with attempts to reconcile with his own daughter proving shattering for subject and audience member alike. Shots of the faces of the children of Mick Foley as his head is cracked open and blood pours down his face are only bettered by vision of Foley watching that footage. This is surprisingly good stuff."
Lee Gough

"When several thousand punters packed the Sydney Entertainment Centre to watch ex-rugby league star, Anthony Mundine (or as he prefers: Mundine: The Man), make his boxing debut against some has-been who looked like he'd struggle to go two rounds with Mr Bean, it was obviously more about spectacle than the finer points of pugilism. Combine showmanship and violence and you're on a winner.

This is professional wrestling's mantra. One third pageantry, one third camp-ery and one third choreography, pro wrestling ranks alongside Parliament question time as one of the basest forms of popular entertainment. Intriguingly, this doco reveals that it's not as fake as you think. These guys really belt each other, and they really bleed, they're just really chummy about it afterwards - backstage, of course.

We also get an extended look at their private lives. This is the bit where WE suffer. The moral dilemmas of human pain absorber, gentle giant and family man Mankind (Mick Foley) make for some interesting moments, but extended forays into the personal problems of Jake 'The Snake' Roberts and the inability of old timer, Terry Funk, to know when to hang up his tights had me surrendering and crying for mercy long before their conclusions. Far more fascinating was watching pro-wrestling's El Supremo, Vince McMahon, christen a new recruit. Puke he calls him, in honour of the budding canvass thumper's chief talent.

Somehow, today's villains just don't seem to have the charisma of the old baddies - whatever happened to the likes of Killer Kawolski? Maybe there's an opportunity here for Mundine. He's short on bulk, but the size of his ego should cover, and he'd have the perfect villainous moniker should his fight career fall flat: Mundane, The Sham."
Brad Green

Email this article

15 AMORE
Apologies, if you've been directed in error to this page;
Read our reviews of

15 AMORE

______________

CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

BEYOND THE MAT (M)
(US)

DOCUMENTARY

INTERVIEWS WITH: Terry Funk, Mick Foley, Jake Roberts, Aurelian Smith Jr

DIRECTOR: Barry W. Blaustein

PRODUCER: Barry W. Blaustein, Barry Bloom, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Michael Rosenberg

SCRIPT: Barry W. Blaustein

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Grady

EDITOR: Jeff Werner

MUSIC: Nathan Barr

RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 10, 2000 in Melbourne; Oct 12, 2000 in Sydney

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal

VIDEO RELEASE DATE: February 7, 2001







Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2017