Certain to get noticed for its trio of electrifying leading performances, this unnerving and stylish true life tragedy still feels a bit off thanks to director Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote) overcompensating where he doesn’t need to.
Olympic gold medal wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) has just come back from the 1984 Olympics and he isn’t in the best state of mind. Struggling financially and feeling ill at ease with his more talented older brother and trainer Dave (Mark Ruffalo), he takes an offer from wealthy wrestling enthusiast John du Pont (Steve Carell) to train at his home, full of state of the art training equipment, a team of eager wrestlers, and various amenities. But with neither Mark nor John being of sound mind, it’s clear something ominous is about to happen.
The lion’s share of accolades here will go to Carell’s thin lipped, creepily low key work here, and rightfully so because he’s a revelation. But pay close attention to Tatum’s volatility and Ruffalo’s warmth and you’ll see they’re both outperforming the more talked about performance. Together, they’re unstoppable.
Which is why Miller’s choice to direct the film as an austere, slow burn thriller is a bit of a head-scratcher. It’s about 20 minutes too long, belabouring points already made and well established. The direction has a clearly different emphasis that the script, with Miller more focused on the film’s endgame than the more obvious character beats. Also, the prosthetics on Carrell and Tatum to make them look more like their off screen counterparts are distracting and unnecessary since they’re both already perfect at what they’re doing.
It’s certainly worthwhile and effective where it needs to be, but there was potential for something much greater.
Monday, September 8th, 6:00pm, Roy Thompson Hall (PREMIUM)
Tuesday, September 9th, 12:00pm, Princess of Wales