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The Smashing Machine (2002)

R  |   |  Documentary, Sport  |  May 2002 (USA)
7.8
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Genres:

Documentary | Sport

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Rated R for violence, some language and drug content | See all certifications »
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May 2002 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Smashing Machine: The Life and Times of Extreme Fighter Mark Kerr  »

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Trivia

The original title of this movie was "The Specimen". That was Mark Kerr's original nickname and it was the title with which the movie was presented at the 2002 Tribeca Film Festival. It was change to "The Smashing Machine" once it was picked-up by HBO. See more »

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User Reviews

John Hyams' delicate exploration of the reality behind ultimate fighting and the people involved with this gruesome sport.
29 July 2004 | by See all my reviews

The Reality of Ultimate Fighting

John Hyams' film 'The Smashing Machine,' comes across in the way few documentaries really do: Presenting the real-life struggles of ultimate fighter Mark Kerr in a captivating narrative. The film follows Kerr's career over the course of one year, from 1999 to 2000. It explains how he first was an amateur wrestler at the collegiate level, and was later drawn into ultimate fighting in an attempt to use his talent in the ring to earn some money. After his first public appearance, Kerr became a celebrity overnight, eventually finding his way to the Japan-based Pride Fighting Championship promotion. Here, the crowds were huge, and the prize money was impressive. Kerr quickly became one of the top competitors in the promotion, making him truly one of the best fighters on the globe. In the scene where Kerr is in a doctor's waiting room, discussing the sport with an older woman who sees the sport being unreasonable and brutal, he shows his confidence in his sport and does his best to defend it. Hyams however shows also the other side of Kerr's story which is filled with problems.

After years of sustaining extremely bad beatings in the ring, Kerr has become addicted to pain killers which led to serious health problems and difficulty with his home life. While it is easy to accept Kerr's defense given to the woman in the doctor's office, the film's unhesitating look into the sport suggests that the woman is right. The camera never shies away from the violence and gruesomeness of the sport, but also reveals the side we never get to see: That Mark Kerr and other fighters depicted in the film, are not inhuman, barbaric beasts whose main reason for existence is to harm their opponents. Instead, we see that they are normal guys who are just doing this to make a living. We may notice that Kerr is not a man who wants to hide anything. He never asks that the camera man be shut off. He is completely honest in his interviews and conversations. He does not even mind showing his pain killer injection and letting us see the scene in the hospital where he breaks out in tears, realizing that his life has to change. That is why Hyams did not choose a soundtrack that is loud, angry and fast, but instead we here music that provides an atmosphere against anger, really allowing the visuals to speak for themselves.

Hyams film has therefore turned into a successful documentary that tries to balance the views which are for and against ultimate fighting and the people involved. 'The Smashing Machine' is not only extreme violent, but also emotional, and at times heartbreaking. Yet it is definitely not a film for all viewers because of the intense brutality shown.


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