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1 item from 1999

Film review: 'Beyond the Mat' 'Mat' Steps Out of Ring to Win its Bout / Aficionado Blaustein's docu looks at the people behind the personalities

19 October 1999 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

"Beyond the Mat", screenwriter-turned-documentarian Barry Blaustein's no-holds-barred, behind-the-bravado look at professional wrestling, is almost as entertaining as the main event itself.

Die-hard aficionado Blaustein, who also provides the every-guy narration, makes his subjects forget about the camera, which, in the WWF/WCW/ECW world of brazen self-promotion, is something of a minor miracle.

While the film, which begins its Oscar-qualifying run this weekend, occasionally loses its way when it strays a little too far from its ringside perch, there's enough color and wry observation to please fans and non-fans.

There's certainly no shortage of amusement, from the WWF exec who claims that his outfit has a lot in common with the Muppets, including being a family-owned business involved in the promotion of characters, to the rookie wrestler who has been dubbed Puke for his ability to, uh, projectile vomit at will.

We also see a lot of WWF boss man Vince McMahon in and out of the ring, as well as present and past fixtures, including Chyna, New Jack, Coco BWare and one current governor of Minnesota.

But Blaustein is ultimately interested in a trio of personalities: Terry Funk, who at age 53 is at the end of a successful career; Jake "The Snake" Roberts, once a major name in wrestling whose personal demons have left him a shadow of his former tough-guy self; and last but certainly not least, Mick Foley (a k a "Mankind"), a warm and articulate family man who just happens to have a very high pain threshold.

According to the production notes, it took Blaustein, whose writing credits include "The Nutty Professor" and "Saturday Night Live" during the Eddie Murphy years, a few years to gain the trust of several of his key subjects before any footage was shot.

As he delves deeper into the lives of the persons behind the personalities, Blaustein occasionally loses sight of his main objectives. For example, an unnecessary return visit to Roberts in which he and his estranged college-age daughter have a strained reunion, feels like it belongs on "20/20" or "48 Hours". Not to mention the fact that at 102 minutes the documentary could stand some pruning.

If there was a heart and soul to "Beyond the Mat", it is Foley, a sweet-natured, doting husband and father of two when he's not wearing a leather mask and being bloodied and body-slammed by the competition.

It's an intriguing dichotomy that gives Blaustein's film a valuable toehold in the ever-competitive talking-heads arena.



Imagine Entertainment presents a Barry W. Blaustein film

Credits: Director: Barry Blaustein; Producers: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Michael Rosenberg, Barry Bloom, Barry Blaustein; Director of photography: Michael Grady; Editor: Jeff Werner; Music: Nathan Barr; Narrator: Barry Blaustein. Cast: Vince McMahon, Terry Funk, Mick Foley, Jake Roberts, Chyna. MPAA rating: R. Color/stereo. Running time -- 102 minutes.


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