Bigger Stronger Faster* (2008) Poster

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Well Made, Honest Look at Steroids
bdgill1216 July 2011
Like many men his age, growing up Chris Bell idolized the muscle stars of the 80s like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Hulk Hogan. He dreamed of becoming a professional bodybuilder and working out at Gold's Gym with his heroes. He was devastated, therefore, when he realized these men were juiced up and that their message was fraudulent. Chris reluctantly accepted that to truly compete in the sport he loved he would have to turn to steroids and ultimately rejected the drugs. His brothers, Mike and Mark, couldn't make the same choice. "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" explores the controversy that is the steroid industry and the American obsession with being just what the film's title describes.

"BSF" is what you would call a balanced documentary, or to purists, a "true" documentary. Chris explores both sides of the argument over steroids and does his best to leave the final decision of whether or not steroids have been overly vilified up to the audience. There is a certain amount of reluctance to the narrative that Chris provides and you can sense the conflict within himself as he takes us through this journey. On the one hand, he believes the drugs to be morally wrong. On the other, he knows he can't compete without them and proponents of steroids (featured prominently throughout "BSF") make a compelling case for their usage. Chris is a human face for the battle against steroids, a sympathetic figure who really sums up the issues that so many athletes face these days.

Unlike some of the reviews I've read, "BSF" is NOT a pro-steroid documentary. Those who would push for the legalization of the juice are given an opportunity to express their beliefs and discuss the scientific tests that would support their assertions. But I found this to be more in the interest of the aforementioned balance rather than portions of a propaganda piece for 'roids. The classic side effects of steroids (acne, uncontrollable anger, loss of fertility, etc.) are not only discussed but clearly displayed by the drug's defenders even as they argue against these afflictions. When Chris quietly challenges some of the assertions of anti-steroid campaigners, notably Congressman Henry Waxman, it is done with respect and genuine interest in the factual basis for some of the widely-held beliefs about steroids. Through these questions, Chris shows that the issue of just how destructive these drugs are is not as clear-cut as we tend to think. Whether right or wrong, you can find studies that will support your claims either way.

Chris brings the point home, however, when he turns the camera on his own family as he peers into the lives of his brothers, both of who use steroids regularly and both of whom have been negatively impacted by their habits. It is a truly compelling moment when Chris' dad tells him point-blank that he expects Mike to turn up dead sooner rather than later. It's even more hard-hitting when you know that just a few months after the filming of "Bigger, Stronger, Faster", Mike did die at the age of 37. A longtime steroid user who would have done anything to break into the world of big time wrestling, Mike's early demise serves as this documentary's lasting impact and perhaps the final point to swing the balance of the film's debate.

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7/10
Insightful, but dangerous
antiprice24 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The crux of this doc is squarely on the perceived notions of what steroids do to an individual. I dare anybody to refute the fact that there are too many unknowns concerning steroids. This doc states that the side effects of steroids are reversible once steroids are stopped. True, but what isn't mentioned is the wasting of muscle tissue that breaks down into ketones. Unless a vigorous exercise ritual is maintained, then muscle mass dissipates into fatty bulk. This is what leads to heart problems.

Getting back to the film, it masterfully illustrates the hypnotic influence wrestling had on so many young boys; myself included. When I went to the Army, I worked my rear off to look like Brutus the Barber Beefcake. It never happened, but my ego was never bruised because of it. The "side effects of being American" don't come from the steroid culture. They come from a childhood of being told that we can do or become anything we want to be. Think about how different childhood would be if we were told exactly what our function would be at an early age. So much time otherwise spent dreaming of irrational careers could be spent preparing for an inevitable livelihood. That is not to say that people are their jobs. So much time could be spent enjoying the personal aspects of our lives rather than spending 20 plus years exploring how we make a living.
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10/10
Best Show on the Subject
kfratt15 July 2010
I took 15 different anabolic steroids, oral and injectable, the original human growth hormone, and HCG during my four years of anabolic use in the early 80s as a competitive powerlifter, bodybuilder, and college baseball and hockey player...but now I'm a school teacher with a master's in math, so I'm not a total blockhead. I learned about 'roids from the best (Dr. James Wright, who did steroid research for the US Army), was involved in the drug trade with the best (England's Tony Fitton), and have been the subject of numerous studies, print stories, books, and shows (Time, Harvard University, Boston Museum of Science, Nightline to name a very few). That being noted, this was easily the most honest, straightforward and truthful program I've ever witnessed about anabolics - and that includes all the stuff I've been involved in. Those who don't agree simply don't have the experience to realize that, so it's not really their fault, they are just consumed with personal opinion and bias based on little to no first-hand knowledge and the misdirected media. Throw everything else in the trash, this show is the best.
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Unconventional, controversial take on steroid use
Roland E. Zwick17 August 2011
The documentary "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" provides a decidedly unconventional - indeed, controversial - take on the use of anabolic steroids. Rather than pointing out the dangers of such use, the film seems to be making the opposite case: that steroids are really no more problematic than myriad other performance-enhancement substances and techniques used by athletes to better their game. And, if anything, it is the American obsession with being the biggest, the strongest and the fastest that may be the real culprit in the first place.

Christopher Bell, who directs, narrates and appears prominently in the film, was a short, fat kid when he and his two brothers, Mark and Mike, the latter of whom died not long after the release of the movie, became obsessed with achieving fame and fortune through bodybuilding, power-lifting and professional wrestling. With media-savvy role models such as Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone serving as their inspiration, the boys eventually turned to steroid use to improve their chances of achieving their goal. But Chris always felt bad for trying steroids, mainly because the media and the people around him kept telling him that it was both dangerous and immoral to do so. So he quit. Now, through his film, Chris has decided to find an answer to his question of whether steroids really are such a bad thing - in terms of their effect on both the body and competitive fairness - or whether their negative reputation is largely a product of media hype.

He spends a good amount of his time in the film seeking out professional athletes, coaches, and "experts" in the field, only to find that the "experts" – whether in the medical field or the halls of Congress – don't really have the facts to buttress their case, and that most of the athletes he talks to flat-out admit to using steroids themselves.

Chris really aims his opprobrium at the modern American obsession with achieving fame, fortune and physical perfection at any and all costs – a group in which he includes himself and his brothers. There's a particularly pointed and witty moment as a psychologist he's interviewing points to the slow but noticeable evolution of the GI Joe action figure over the decades, from a fairly trim average guy in the '50s to a muscle-bound, six-packed, super-hunk today. Chris calls out the media for its complicity in this obsession with the models that are used in advertising and the actors who have achieved superstar status on screen.

Chris's main thesis is that steroid users are being unfairly singled out, while people in other areas of life - like college students and musicians who take performance-enhancing drugs - are not similarly accused of cheating. It's the hypocrisy that seems to bother Chris the most. He points out that the same Congress that brought baseball players in to testify about doping in that field also managed to deregulate a supplement industry that finds ways to rip off consumers with the promise of physical perfection. He likewise attacks the pharmaceutical industry that continually feeds America's obsession with consuming drugs as a means of achieving health and happiness. He also points out just how easy it is to procure access to all kinds of drugs – both legal and illegal – if the determination is there and the price right.

By focusing so heavily on his own family, Chris really personalizes the issue for the audience and prevents the movie from becoming just another finger-wagging, cautionary-tale polemic. This also brings us the film's most poignant moments as he and his brothers engage in moments of fruitful soul-searching and their parents reveal how they feel about the issue.

"Bigger, Stronger, Faster" is likely to upset some in the audience who feel it's taking a somewhat cavalier approach to what is generally considered to be nothing short of a scourge plaguing our nation. But Chris seems to be making some good points, even if he isn't coming right out and endorsing the use of anabolic steroids. He seems more concerned with exactly WHY we are so obsessed with being the biggest, strongest and fastest. And that deeper dimension is what winds up giving his film the competitive edge it needs to win.
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7/10
Proud Cheaters
imxo21 June 2008
The post by reviewer "Melkmail" that this movie is "a pro steroid message disguised as an unbiased expose" is quite interesting, and I would agree with him that this film is not the masterpiece of objectivity which some people claim it to be. What I would say is that you will hear some pro-steroid views expressed which might not agree with what you are normally used to hearing about those chemicals. Among other things, Chris Bell has drawn a comparison between the over-the-top anti-marijuana ads of yesteryear (e.g. "Reefer Madness") and the anti-steroid views of the present day. I certainly doubt that those two campaigns are comparable. Similarly, the film points out that steroids have achieved wonderful results in treating illness and injury, as if that in the slightest way mitigates the alleged damage caused by steroid abuse. I don't know about you, but I would hardly be encouraged to take steroids just because someone told me that my testicles would return to normal size after I stopped using steroids.

What is also very interesting about "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" is that the persons interviewed on both sides of the steroid question are not exactly portrayed as "normal." In the interview with Congressman Henry Waxman is edited to depict him as a bit of a flake who does not have a grasp of details or facts. Likewise, those segments in which anti-steroid physician Dr. Gary Wadler is interviewed make him look a bit of a charlatan. Those two men were shown in the worst possible light, and I believe that documentary maker Chris Bell did this deliberately. So much for objectivity.

However, the body-builders, athletes, and coaches who openly advocate steroid use come off no better. It may not have been Bell's intention, but almost all of those pro-steroid folks strike one as a bit abnormal, and a couple of them even appear to be in need of serious psychological help. Is that what long-time steroid use does to a person? There are women who look and talk like men, and men who are almost as wide as they are tall.

Even knowing that those physical results have been achieved with the aid of anabolic steroids it's obvious that all those people have still put in tremendous amounts of hard work to be able to achieve the physical appearance and strength that they have; but the end result for many of them is an freakish appearance that might be more expected from one of Dr. Mengele's monstrous experiments.

The most sensible person in the whole film is Chris Bell's father Sheldon who has seen the effect of steroids use in his own family. He and his wife Rosemary both deserve a lot of credit for permitting themselves to be interviewed in the film.

What is especially shocking about the film, though, is not steroid use, per se. Rather, it is the openly expressed view among steroid advocates that because "everyone does it" they are going to do it, too. The do-gooders in this film may be depicted in a deliberately poor light, but the steroid advocates come across as having absolutely no moral compass. They openly and proudly advocate cheating in sport because their competitors cheat. So, this is what sport has become in America and around the world - a competition among cheaters. Kind of makes you wonder how these people can look at their wide, bloated faces in the mirror each morning.
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1/10
Not an honest documentary
jnatch11 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOLIERS *** I have serious problems with this documentary. I feel strongly that the set up, namely that the narrator/protagonist sort of was against steroids when he began his "research" and then was giving it the big thumbs up by film's end, is not especially true. This film has the distinct feel of a pre-conceived opinion and then fitting the so called facts to support that. Hey I am guilty of sometimes liking films that may have done the same if it's an argument I agree with. I am not taking some high moral ground. I am just questioning the objectivity here.

The film is pretty well made. There are some facts and a few "things that made me go hmmm," if you will. It was produced and edited well. But this film is clearly pro-steroids. The only anti-steroids point that was clearly stated, oddly, was that on average people who take steroids are losers. Not because they are hurting themselves or cheating but because the mentality of steroid takers tends to be of underachieving dreamers. OK interesting point, even at the expense of the two brothers of the narrator. I suppose the narrator thinks he is better than his brothers because he is a film maker. Well, actually maybe he has a point.

The film tends to not say anything positive about steroids. It is just a litany of arguments against the arguments against steroids (intentional double negative there). Are they bad for you it asks? Not as bad as people claim. But really, are they bad for you? Well so are lots of other things. Is it cheating to use them? Well people cheat lots of ways Do the people who go on against steroids have a case? No they have an agenda. Etc, etc, etc.

I mean this film seriously makes some arguments that are so shallow and off the point it is a bit pathetic. And in the failing attempt to be "fair and balanced" they do have some anti-steroid people show up and give an opinion but the ratio of screen time is not even close to 50/50. Plus they make dismissive comments about these people. When introducing the anti-steroid expert they quickly point out he is probably just a guy who wants to make a buck because he is the TV industries "go to guy."

In the end of the movie a speech is given and it honestly makes the point that steroids are American. Americans are winners, so winners take steroids. I kid you not, they even flash a picture of Al Gore when they mention losers.
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1/10
Does this bother anyone?
vanet_0624 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
From the comments on the official page for this movie: "I am a Health/PE Teacher in Cameron, WV and viewed the film with my Strength and Conditioning Class. They loved it! It was extremely thought provoking and brought a new thinking to performance enhancement. The film was well done and showed both sides of this provocative subject. I hope that eventually people start to see that if taken properly that in no way should these drugs be classified in the same areas as cocaine and marijuana. Job well done!" Did you catch that? This mockumentary is being peddled to children in school to bring "new thinking to performance enhancement" by a "teacher" who obviously thinks that steroids have been given a bad rap.

Well, that IS exactly what the filmmaker said he wanted when it premiered - to peddle it to children in schools from grammar school on up.

The film states that because an AIDS patient with wasting needed steroids (already readily available to someone receiving medical treatment for real illness to begin with), it's no big deal for any perfectly HEALTHY male, at ANY age, to use them also. He continuously shows bottles of SYNTHETIC injectable hormones and talks about how "natural" it is to inject them into a body that is already producing normal testosterone levels as nature intended.

What injecting testosterone does, most simply, is this: it causes your body to stop producing its own testosterone (Mr. Bell continuously harps on how it's "reversible", as if to justify doing it to begin with). Regardless of whether temporary or permanent, how on earth could any "responsible" adult, whether a filmmaker or a doting fan who happens to be a TEACHER, be peddling a message to children encouraging them to shut down their own natural testosterone production and switch over to dependence on a synthetic source, for ANY reason or ANY length of time?

The guy starts the film out saying his body dysmorphia is a problem. Then by the end of the film he's playing rousing upbeat music and showing images that show his body image and lifestyle is red-blooded American and just great. Considering body dysmorphia is this in men and anorexia in women, I can't imagine how a film by a skeletal anorexic woman would start off with her stating she has a problem and then not being expected to DEAL with and hopefully FIX it somewhere along the line. If there were an equivalent, every young girl would be CONVINCED to starve themselves by the time the credits rolled. Nowhere in this does Chris Bell go to a therapist. By the end he's happily scratching his itch, his addiction to overtraining and poor self-image. There are so many mixed messages this guy doesn't know which end is up, and yet nearly every reviewer says it's the "truth"? Which "truth" exactly, since this guy was too thoroughly conflicted to even know who he was. Despite his own confusion, the filmmaker has had no problems shooting down dissenting anti-steroid opinions in other forums, in much the same way that he HARD SELLS a PRO-STEROID message nonstop in this film. How could there possibly even be a discussion as to whether this is pro-steroid or not? Do people watching it not have EYES???

People always forget that everything is cyclical, while we rush to and then away from one boom and bubble and fad after another. People so easily forget that one minute we'll have some study telling us that some new supplement or habit or diet is great for us, then another study a few years later will tell us how those same things have been killing us in droves. I wonder if Chris Bell will have even a moment of guilt when years after this "positive" film has been all the impetus that was needed to push some impressionable child or weak minded adult already thinking about juicing into doing it, we find out that in fact it really WASN'T a good idea to inject something into your body that isn't NECESSARY - for not only the user but everyone around him.

As a few other users have pointed out, the anti-steroid voices in this film were presented with mocking responses, music, footage, etc, as opposed to the pro-steroid voices. If that really seems "unbiased", then go ahead and soak this film in without rational thought. It seems that most have.

If Chris Bell succeeds in taking a pro-steroid message to children sitting in school while their parents have no idea what they're "learning", he'll also succeed at this: spreading the anguish of his own parents to the parents of every child. If THAT was the true purpose of BSF, then it's a rousing success. I doubt sincerely that the simplistic logic of children (especially with the obvious bias of the "teacher" above) is going to be sufficient for them to walk away from seeing this being convinced to not juice or have a positive body image (of the one nature, not science, gave them). Chances are the CHILDREN that are going to see this fun, colorful, and extremely irresponsible film are going to walk away from it thinking they've received NO negative message.

Would you want YOUR kid to be in that strength/conditioning class in Cameron WV? I personally wouldn't want a film touting the health benefits of prescription drugs of ANY sort being marketed to my perfectly healthy kid behind my back, but maybe I'm alone in that. It seems we can't educate kids on how to be responsible with birth control during school hours, but we can teach them how to juice, shrink their testicles while they're still growing, unnaturally grow the bones in the forehead and face, and all the other freakish side effects of synthetic testosterone replacement.
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10/10
It is about time
My background is such that I've met some of the people in this film, and have substantial experience with the world of bodybuilding. My academic background is in the sciences, and this is a topic I have researched to death.

This film takes an honest view at steroids, and more importantly at the attitudes that push people towards altering "what god gave them". If anything it should make people realize the problem isn't a single class of drugs that has been sensationalized, but a growing problem of body dimorphism. It is self worth, and self-esteem in a bottle. And there is nothing "biased towards steroids" about that message. If anything it is simply one of several performance enhancement methods he demonstrates.

I know to many the movie seems biased. But to anyone who has done the research, it isn't so much this movie is biased as the media depiction of these drugs is as ridiculous as the media's depiction of marijuana in "Reefer Madness". People are so bombarded with misinformation about drugs in general in America, that when they are shown something honest, it rocks their point of reference and they feel it is biased.

What this documentary is, is eye opening, honest, and very complete in it's presentation. More so then any other documentary I've seen on the topic.
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8/10
A nice surprise.
Tom Rochester12 January 2011
This doc outlines the current situation regarding the use of steroids as performance enhancers, bodybuilding drugs and in conventional medicine. The film does a pretty good job of outlining the facts and the pseudo-science behind some claims as well as letting us hear peoples views on steroids, where they are actually being used and to what effect.

Where this film becomes unique and interesting is in the story of our narrator and filmmaker Mike Bell. Mike is one of 3 brothers who all grew up watching pro wrestling and 80's action movies. Into their teens they became football players, then wrestlers and eventually competitive power lifters. Today, his 2 brothers use steroids to enhance their performance whereas Mike is totally anti steroids.

The agenda of the film is clearly setup as a predictable anti steroids expo but as the debate opens up the film progresses into something different and much more interesting. At times evidence is in defence of steroids and though I wouldn't go as far as to say it is a pro steroids film, it's certainly open-ended. The film itself is presented and produced really quite well. We even touch on some wider issues of genetic modification in livestock, which somehow comes out in defence of steroids as they are quite simply not to blame for these monstrous beef hulks.

Without conclusion, the film gives us a well-rounded outline of the debate as well as introducing us to some tragic and not so tragic characters along the way.

This film succeeds in entertaining and provoking debate and is really well paced. The mix of factual investigation and personal stories and interviews strikes a balance rare in documentary and quite satisfying to watch. Worth a look.
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8/10
A honest look at Steroids in American Culture
Caleb22 January 2008
I just recently saw this film at Sundance Film Festival. I loved it. It was the best of the three documentary competition movies I was able to watch. Chris Bell does an amazing job taking an intimate, honest look at American culture and Steroid use. He essentially sets up himself and his family as a case study for his movie. He looks at himself and his family in an honest, open, and introspective manner. He causes the viewer to reevaluate their pre-conceived notions of steroid use and American values. His investigations on the subject include interviews with experts including his own mother and Olympic greats Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson. It is thought provoking, clever, and insightful, all while remaining objective. All things that define a great documentary in my book.
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10/10
Honest, interesting
IMcharger30 May 2008
Finally an honest look into the steroid world. These days in order to compete with your peers/teammates, you almost have to take some sort of performance enhancing drugs. If you don't, you'll fall behind. Standard case of "keeping up with the Jones's". I feel it is very obvious to the world and sports fans that this is going on, but NO ONE is honest about it! And when one guy gets busted, he's looked down upon and singled out. Not fair to single them out and criticize when everyone else on the team is doing it.

This doc doesn't really detail team sports, but it is still the same concept. You finally get a good look into this world and a good look into why people do these types of drugs. Very informative, well done documentary. I am so glad to have seen it, and for anyone curious, it's worth watching.
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10/10
Great look into steroid use in America.
wwe796115 August 2010
This is an honest, entertaining, and informative documentary. The man who is making this documentary about steroid use isn't someone just talking about it. You can tell he is emotionally involved in this. This is due to both his brothers taking steroids. That is a big part of the documentary. He isn't a guy interviewing someone he doesn't even know. He is talking to his brothers, and that makes this documentary much more than a documentary. It is also very entertaining. Documentaries are not made to be entertaining. They are made to be informative, but this documentary manages to keep you entertained as well as informed. That leads us to the information. They give solid facts in this movie. This does really show how publicity for steroids as gone overboard. People all the time say that steroids kill thousands of people, but this shows a solid number of 3 people confirmed dead from steroids a year. This really is one of the best documentaries I've ever watched. It is very underrated.

4 stars out of 4
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10/10
Another Side Of Drug Abuse
Seamus282917 August 2008
Normally, I would probably avoid this film if it dealt exclusively with the world of sports. This,however isn't the case. It deals with another realm of drug abuse:the use of steroids by athletes. For far too long now,drug abuse has been pretty much narrowed down to illegal street drugs (Heroin,Cocaine,etc.) or prescription drugs (Darvon & what ever). Chris Bell tells the tale of himself & his two other brothers,raised in a good home with loving parents,that chooses to bulk up by using metabolic steroids (such as the kind that way too many athletes are/have been using for far too long). Bell tries to crack open the facade of just why people have to use these substances (which are generally prescribed to organ transplant patients). The film manages to (once again)mine the harbor of Michael Moore style gadfly (read that as muckraking)film making techniques (not that I'm saying that's bad---it's just getting a bit tiring,is all). There are some examples of steroid abuse that would probably make for a truly effective episode of 'Intervention' (has Ken Seeley,or anybody else on that program seen this documentary yet?)
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1/10
A pro steroid message disguised as an unbiased expose
t_rexx23 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is probably a spoiler, but the film is after all a documentary. If you'd like to see it first, please do so before reading...

I just saw the screening of this at Sundance, and I was appalled. The filmmaker initially makes it seem as if he will be painting an unsympathetic portrait of steroids. Then he glosses over the Benoit tragedy with a curt few minutes and an ultimate dismissal of the possibility of the violence being attributable to steroids. He moves on to handpicked interviews with experts he disagrees with (who he presents as incompetent and who are universally anti- steroid) and experts he agrees with (always presented as intelligent and pro-steroid). During the Q&A when I asked him why in the glib and ultimately pro-steroid message of the film he whisked right over the possibility of tragedy to women and children and whether doing so was because real violence and death would have darkened the comedic tone of the film, or whether he did so simply because he wasn't a woman and couldn't relate or didn't care, he replied that no woman or child harmed was ever proved to be harmed because of steroids. Proved. I guess not enough dead bodies to prove it to him just yet. So if you think in light of those tragedies this film is going to enlighten everyone, think again.

Everyone else in the theater spent the rest of the Q&A kissing up and telling him how great it was and how enlightened they now were about the harmLESSness of steroids, and he even wrapped it all up by perkily announcing that after the festival circuit he plans to hand-peddle his movie to high schools and colleges to dispel the negative assumptions about steroids!! Like the bring your father to career day scene in Thank You For Smoking, and not one person in the entire theater was shocked and appalled. Amazing that he wants to do his part to actively encourage steroid use in children and young adults when steroid use among kids as young as 8th grade is alarmingly on the rise.

Even while carefully choosing experts whose opinions mirror his own and whose statements continually deny that anabolic steroids have no consequences, the filmmaker continuously insists "the effects are reversible" - what effects? He is clearly implying negative effects, since you wouldn't want to brag about positive gains being lost, and when he makes this oft- repeated statements it's obvious that he means anything negative. He seems petulantly upset that cigarettes and alcohol are legal but not steroids - is he saying that since cigarettes and alcohol are bad for you that one more substance that's bad for you shouldn't be a problem? Why the comparison? Perhaps since he plans to peddle this clearly pro-steroid film to high school children and college students, films about the acceptable but temporary use of alcohol and tobacco should be shared with a younger audience, as well? Since clearly the ill effects of heavy drinking and smoking are by and large reversible once they are stopped, as well? Does the filmmaker actually expect us to believe that any of the men who he interviews, many of whom (including his two brothers) openly state that they will probably never stop using steroids, should indicate to society that encouraging young adults to "temporarily" dope is a good idea, or that anyone who initially starts them will actually at some point quit?

Remember that this guy is no elbow patch tweed jacket wearing milquetoast, he's a huge powerlifter who because he himself doesn't dope (but his brothers do) and can easily hold his own with any violent guy on steroids. Most women and children can't. Apparently not a concern for this guy. And funny, all his friends (and brothers) use steroids, think he's biased? After all, since a man sees one side of his friends and the women and children who share intimate constant contact with him often see a darker side, the filmmaker isn't that dissimilar to the people who always say "he seemed like such a nice guy" after someone murders their family. You'll need a lot more than a grain of salt for this one, since the filmmaker has his own Adonis complex that he freely admits he's quite happy with and an entire entourage of steroid users as friends and family who skew a documentary that is presented in trailers as unbiased. It's anything but.
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8/10
True to Life
PhilMcK62330 May 2008
As an ex-amateur wrestler, I have seen a lot of this stuff first hand. But until now the use of steroids or performance enhancing drugs was very hush hush. This movie is very true to life and reveals the truth behind this mystery.

Steroids are not limited to sports pros or Olympic athletes, these drugs are everywhere. People you would never suspect are using them, your neighbor, your teacher, possibly even members of your own family.

It is about time someone has lifted the veil off of this issue, and this movie did a realistic and honest job of doing just that. Thank you to the brave participants.
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7/10
Steroids & The Making Of The All-American, Million-Dollar Hero
Dalbert Pringle3 April 2015
If nothing else, this documentary (that took a very level-headed approach to weighing the pros & cons of steroid use amongst athletes/bodybuilders) was certainly well-worth a view just to get an eye-popping look at Greg Valentino's ridiculously over-developed biceps, as well as seeing a heavily muscled Belgian Blue bull (sans steroids) up close.

But besides these 2 very freakish curiosities, this fairly satisfied viewer was also very pleasantly surprised by how well-researched and competently presented Bigger Stronger Faster* was. I certainly wasn't expecting to be this impressed with this documentary.

Very professionally directed by Chris Bell (whose 2 older brothers were both avid steroid users), I found this entertaining documentary to be quite fair-minded about its research regarding the positive benefits of taking steroids as opposed to their negative side-effects, which showed clear links to cancer, heart attacks and erratic behaviour (roid rage).

Through interviews with medical experts, sports figures, etc., etc., Chris Bell's documentary repeatedly brought into question the use of steroids amongst high-profile athletes. And, as a result of this, brought some of America's biggest heroes in the arena of sports (who are praised to the heavens) down a few significant notches from their lofty positions on their pedestals.
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9/10
The Best Reporting on Steroids to Date
prayn4food1 June 2008
Any sports fan over the last few years has been subject to hours and hours of Steroids debate, whether in the media, in Congress, or just on the Little League field. To call this movie the "Comprehensive Guide to Steroids in America" is accurate, but also sells the movie a little short. Not only does it provide an in-depth analysis of the steroid culture, and also provide a sympathetic case study in the Bell family, but it transcends either of those simplifiers by attaching itself to the nostalgia of American culture itself.

How can one deny the appeal of Rambo, Rocky IV, Hulk Hogan, and the Governator himself? Clips of Reagan and Bush Sr. endorsing such icons while also passing legislation banning any non-medical use of steroids are perhaps the most poignant facts of the film. Those points, and younger brother Stinky's honest relation of the ways he seems equally approving and regretful of his steroid use. This film manages to span the political, competitive, and personal effects of steroids in an even-handed and balanced manner that will open a lot of eyes.
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8/10
Shining example of a great doc film
hufharted30 May 2008
This documentary contains all the needed ingredients for an awesome film: great subject, honest and objective, entertaining, great interviews. Being a big documentary fan, I am usually very critical of the films I see. For this one though, I can't think of a negative thing to say. It takes a sensitive, covered up issue and reveals all the dirty details with brutal honesty. No one seems to be holding back in this one. You will also find yourself understanding these people and although not agreeing with drug use, seeing them not as "users" or "addicts" but real people who have made some different choices in their lives. All in all this was one of the best docs I have seen to date.
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8/10
Truth and nuance
Chris Knipp20 June 2008
In this watchable and wide-ranging documentary Bell explores the controversial subject of anabolic steroids and their use to enhance physical development and athletic performance. Starting right at home with himself and his two brothers, Mark and Mike, still admitted steroid users (Chris quit them), he moves fearlessly and tirelessly (but always with good humor) from the most intimate to the most general aspects of this subject--from the inadequacies of the 50's 97 Pound Weakling to America's unhealthy and ever-increasing twenty-first century obsession with physical beauty and macho muscle--and the country's unwillingness to accept anyone who's not a "winner," underlined in General Patton's speech in the film starring George C. Scott from which a clip is shown. Chris Bell especially deserves credit not only for doing the footwork and approaching the subject from every angle, but for tackling emotional issues head-on without ever being swept away by them. The examples and images pop in seamlessly whenever they're needed or apt. It's impossible to emerge from a viewing of this film without being stimulated and enlightened.

To begin with, Bell shows how tainted--given congressional investigations and rumors of dire physical and psychological effects of the hormones--are some of America's sports and media stars. Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Olympic medalist Marion Jones, Arnold Schwarzenegger, "Hulk" Hogan, and other celebs have been exposed as steroid users whose triumphs were very definitely due in significant part to the greater, faster-growing muscle bulk and strength the substances in question make possible. Should people like the Bell brothers feel guilty, when the practice of steroid use is so widespread?

All three Bell brothers seem to have grown up shorter and smaller than they wanted to be and striven to become strong, to expand "horizontally" to compensate for not being able to expand vertically. Mike (Mad Dog) Bell, the oldest brother, attempted pro football, and later became a pro wrestler on TV but only as the scripted fall guy, never a winner, and now he is too old, but he won't give up and keeps training. Mark, the youngest, who got nicknamed Smelly because he was always sweaty from constant involvement in sports, became a power lifter, and promises his wife he will quit steroids once he lifts 700 pounds. And then he reneges on that promise. Chris's concern is greatest for Mike, for whom steroids are one of several addiction problems Chris fears may lead to loss of job and wife. Chris's mother and father speak quite frankly about their sons' use, which they are only partly aware of. His mother is judgmental and tearful, his father more philosophical, but both cheer madly when Smelly lifts those 700 pounds in competition.

Bell interviews experts and advocates on both sides, and also Donald Hooton, whose 17-year-old steroids-using athlete son's suicide has caused him to start an organization to foment opinion against the substances. It is quite possible the boy's death, no doubt due to multiple causes, was propelled more by anti-depressants. Bell doesn't deeply investigate charges of steroids causing rages or other mental unbalance but finds no evidence of that, or of cancer. Contrarily, he interviews a long-time AIDS patient whose life was saved by steroids when he was wasting away and who continues to use them. Bell interviews Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis, of the 1988 Summer Olympics. Lewis denies what there's evidence of, that he was in violation for substances himself prior to the games; Johnson says he was scapegoated and it could only happen because he was Canadian, not American. The upshot of all these investigations and more by Bell is a sense that anabolic steroids aren't a black and white issue.

More importantly, Bell shows America to be a hypocritical country where winning (à la Patton) is the only thing, but the cheating and stepping on toes on the way up that you have to do--which Schwarzenegger did, for instance--is a big no-no. We want to have it both ways. And we bend the rules in some cases, not in others. Tobacco and alcohol are way more dangerous than steroids, but are okay. For sex it's okay to use Viagra. For stage fright it's okay for classical musicians to pop beta blockers. And the under-regulated world of health supplements is full of fakery and profiteering. GI Joe dolls have gotten bulkier and more dramatically tapered with every decade, puffing up to redeemable the comic book superheroes of the 40's and 50's that (though Bell doesn't dwell on this) dominate blockbusters--this summer there's another Incredible Hulk, who might be called the steroid user "on steroids." Bell points out the pervasive use of that expression, "on steroids," for anything big and impressive and enhanced. Ultimately America is a country hooked on looks and performance.

Bell keeps himself present throughout, but without Michael Mooreish obtrusiveness: his own bulky biceps get him a photo op with the Gubernator even if not an interview; his bulk gives him conviction in many encounters with musclebound guys and girls. Bell's fraternal involvement with the issue, however, is inevitably a mixed blessing. It is fine that he does not demonize--but is he too soft? He refers to side effects of steroid use such as body hair and deepening voice in women, balding and testicle shrinking and reduced sperm count in men, which are said to be reversible; but scientific studies seem lacking--a situation attributed by the film to U.S. laws' making steroids illegal. Is this true? And are we, as it appears, stuck with this stuff, unable to turn back? Not every question is answered, but for wideness of context Bell's documentary is hard to fault and indeed a model of its kind.
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7/10
Great look into a covered world
knotTT30 May 2008
I loved this doc. It really gives you a realistic take on the ever masked world of steroid use. We all know that this exists, but how where and why have never really been revealed. Human behavior will never cease to amaze the public, and myself. The display of physical changes that this drug causes is amazing! I had the basic knowledge of the side effects, but holy cow. Seeing the arms of one of the men is mind blowing. Along with the brothers featured in this film, it peeks into the lives and past/present drug use of many of the major sports celebrities. Hulk Hogan being one of them. I find the level of honesty from both pros and amateurs extremely impressive and admirable. This movie has the ability to make some changes.
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7/10
This is not about steroids
celestemekent1 May 2014
Yes in fact this is about a culture in America that is a win at all costs, of hero worship and acceptance/excuses made for those willing to go the "extra mile" into substance abuse just to exceed their own limitations.

And it is about the fact that some folks literally hate the idea of being less than the best for any reason at all. Hate being average in any way. Of all things it is a picture of America that cannot be reconciled with the rhetoric spouted by politicians and those outside the arena making dire claims about the results of using those substances.

It is a culture where only winners are true Americans, and we ignore how they got there as long as they look and play the part. About how the fear of being a loser will drive Americans to do things they ordinarily wouldn't do. Because nobody loves a loser in America, no one.

It is a waste of effort to call those who use steroids cheaters, when the culture all around us in America is this way. Until we begin to learn that good people come in second place, and learn to love those who finish in last place too, then maybe there wont be the pressure to be a winner at all costs and we wont need steroids.
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10/10
Great Film
boltons-14 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Loved it. Enlightening. Controversial. Introspective. I am still thinking about it two days later.

Who knew about the Air Force and musicians--not me? Great stuff about Orin Hatch and making your own supplements.

I loved the deleted scenes too and learned even more watching them.

Wow--1,000 hours of film (600 archival and 400 original) edited down to just 106 minutes. Great work team! I would have liked to know more about Arnold and the side effects of his steroid use (penile implant? sterile?). Also, why does the Bell Family have such body issues? It is not just America--there is something else going on in the Bell family that needs to be explored.

Thank you for this film.
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8/10
Absorbing, straight-forward documentary about America's steroid problem
george.schmidt28 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
BIGGER, STRONGER, FASTER* (2008) *** Absorbing, straight-forward documentary about America's steroid problem and namely how the demonization of the body-building, performance enhancing drug has been a hot-button issue in the past thirty years depicting specifically athletes, both professional and amateur, as facing a decision to use or not use (or more likely abuse) to be the best in their fields. Newcomer documentarian Chris Bell incorporates his own personal story about the affects and tolls it has taken on himself and his brothers, as well as showcasing the media-saturated political witch-hunts and the ultimate hypocrisy and denial by many of his heroes including film stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone and wrestlers like Hulk Hogan. Peppered with humor and some eye-opening educational tools about just what steroids are (and aren't) are for the average lay-person an invitation to a world of unknown travails and for the initiated, either a setback or the greatest gift for their dreams. Provocative and entertaining.
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some odd choices here
marymorrissey22 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I think he ought to have interviewed the guy who wrote the "anabolic reference guide" a very unapologetic pro steroid book written by the guy who went on to run EAS and go anti steroid, but doubtless that person wouldn't be interviewed cause he knows his reincarnation as an anti steroid businessman belies the fact that he appears to still be juicing.

the guy with the huge biceps is obviously a case of silicone and it was wrong to include him without being upfront about that I don't think he should have been in the movie, which for my tastes ran far too long.

aesthetically I was really turned off by the guy going around dressed the way he was the whole time. what was the point of that, to disarm his interview subjects, to charm the audience in a way, does he really go around dressed like that all the time?

I guess this movie provides a needed fresh perspective on one of the USAs many hypocritical policies and while filmmaker's michael moore style is not my favorite mode of presentation at least he didn't descend into schtick the whole time as many of the MM knockoff filmmakers. For someone watching who is already enlightened on this subject it was a little tedious.

I will say listening to Joe Biden made me want to puke and anyone who is so "shocked" at steroid use or Kate Moss doing coke "we thought she was rail thin NATURALLY!" etc ... are all just beneath contempt for their stunning combination of stupidity and holier than thou hypocrisy and misdirected anger. Like people going on about AIG bonuses being iron clad agreements we must honor even though AIG's company Allstate made a policy of bilking insurance holders of their claims and in New Orleans specifically when given a chance to rip off the government did so quite lustily. Americans are prize idiots why do you think they reelected Bush?
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8/10
Excellent, well thought out documentary.
latinfineart24 June 2017
Nice to see a film that shows both sides of this coin. And nice to see the politicians portrayed as the hypocritical, judgmental, short sided neanderthals they truly are. I have long felt that if an athlete was willing to sacrifice his body, to achieve results, then it is their choice, and they should be allowed to do it. George Bush II owned the Texas Rangers, and was fully aware that a lot of his players were doping. Then he became president, and talked on and on about the war on drugs, and the evils of drugs. Same with Arnold. He took steroids since he was 16, but when he became governor, he was all of a sudden opposed to their use. Phone, disingenuous, dishonest, and totally compromised, and insincere.

Steroids should be legal. Period. Drugs should be legal. Making them illegal does nothing to discourage their usage. Stop the war on drugs. Alcohol is legal. Thousands of other drugs are legal. Stop the nonsense.

This film does a good job revealing how ridiculous and self righteous this movement is, to stop steroid use. Kudos to them to telling the truth. Who's body is it anyway?
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