Projections - Movie Reviews

Beyond the Mat Beyond the Mat

Even if you are not into the sport of professional wrestling one bit, looking at it as one big sight gag for the stage to entertain today's youth, the documentary Beyond the Mat may not change your outlook on the sport, but it may have you perceive the odd, yet determined participants who have chosen it as their livelihood, in a different light.

As directed by Barry Blaustein with a grainy veracious spirit, his documentary rarely labors in its recollect of an undignified sport, that has become a pop culture phenomenon, due to the efforts of World Wrestling Federation president Vince McMahon, who takes part in his collaboration of soap opera and athletics that is a guilty pleasure for many beyond the youth market, especially Blaustein, who spent two and a half years in production of his film, primarily following three wrestlers - Terry Funk, Mick Foley, and Jake "The Snake" Roberts.

Blaustein, known for his comic script work for such popular Eddie Murphy vehicles like Coming To America and The Nutty Professor, delivers quite cogently into the result of violence in the ring which is choreographed and all scripted, in the WWF by McMahon and his staff, who operate from their Stamford, Connecticut headquarters.

The writer does an involving job that has some emotional power inasmuch as what happens from the fallout of professional wrestling.

Funk, having retired in 1997, perhaps until an offer brings him back into the ring, is shown in very humanistic terms, as the 50-something wrestler who founded the ECW - Extreme Championship Wrestling, and his work to make this lesser known organization thrive with the help of performers.  Down in Amarillo, Texas we see Terry as his daughter is getting married, and it is interesting that Blaustein shows how brutal these guys are inside the ring, when they exhibit much tenderness outside of it, being able to leave it in the ring.  And Funk is often seen near his end, with doctors telling him of his defective knees and withering spine, and he still needs to make payments for child support.

It's evident that Blaustein was able to gain the trust of Foley, Roberts, and especially Funk, who really helped oversee this somewhat fascinating project that is often hard to watch as Foley is revered for his ability to withstand pain that most couldn't, including falling through a steel cage and repeated hit by a chair with a gash that makes Beyond the Mat viscerally disturbing.  But these guys thrive on the pain, and put their families through perhaps too much, as close as they are to them.

The times that Blaustein spent with Roberts uncovers a sadistic, drug abuser who didn't appear to be the wrestling type, but his mental acumen carried him and the sport to the rise of theatrical importance as he could captivate and snare an audience with his psychology that relied on ingenuity from one who wasn't a great athlete.  Yet, it is a portrait of a sorry husband and father, whose addictions, along with wrestling, have kept him separated from his family, especially his daughter, who he reunited with during the documentary.

Overall, Blaustein makes the most with his skeletal crew in relating what wrestlers and their loved ones go through, the fun and pain and all of the vulnerability in its noble, but cutthroat way.

Beyond the Mat

Home | Search | Reviewer Bios | Links | Mail Us
Copyright © 2005 Projections