R: ARCHIVE, S: MOVIES, D: 03/16/2000,
Beyond the Mat
Barry Blaustein’s affectionately biased documentary is a behind-the-scenes look into the gaudy world of professional wrestling that profiles three grapplers at different stages of their careers. At the apex of superstardom is Mick “Mankind” Foley, a masked mountain of flesh and “Smackdown” headliner who struggles with the effect of the sport’s violence on his children. Legend Terry Funk is trying to remain in the ring even in his 50s; at the bottom, hovering near self-destruction, is Jake “The Snake” Roberts, who smokes crack and intimates disturbing revelations about his past. Big-name personalities like World Wrestling Federation czar Vince McMahon, the Rock, Chyna, and even political piledriver Jesse Ventura pop up. The film also follows a pair of amateur hopefuls and their not-so-classy promoter.
Blaustein, a screenwriter with mostly Eddie Murphy films to his credit, does a respectable job of getting an evenhanded lock on his subject, though he sullies the effort with gratuitous and sybaritical commentary. No matter — even if you find the nation-sweeping spectacle repugnant, Beyond the Mat is an intriguing exposé.
— Tom Meek