"Moneyball" director Bennett Miller takes on a very different sports story in "Foxcatcher." NY1's Neil Rosen filed this review.
Bennett Miller, the director of "Moneyball," is back with a very different kind of sports story. It's called "Foxcatcher," and it stars Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell.
Based on a true story, Tatum plays Olympic gold medal wrestler Mark Schultz. He's training for the 1988 Seoul Olympics along with his brother Dave, another gold medal wrestler whose shadow Mark's been living under. They're pretty close to the poverty level when a wealthy benefactor steps into the picture. His name is John Dupont, played by Carell, an eccentric multimillionaire who summons Mark to his family estate and builds him a state-of-the-art wrestling facility. He tells Mark that he'll have unlimited access to money and equipment to win America another gold medal and promises him that he will exceed his brother's legacy.
However, when Dupont suddenly hires brother Dave, played by Ruffalo, Mark views this as a betrayal, and it causes a rift in his relationship with the wealthy heir.
We see glimpses of how Dupont is an unstable, firearms-obsessed guy who's constantly looking for his mother's approval. Ironically, Dupont knows little about wrestling, yet he gives himself the title of coach and the team lets him carry on with this charade.
There's a dramatic turn at the end of the film, which I can't give away because it would be considered a spoiler, but that ending comes out of nowhere and is not very credible, despite the true nature of the story itself. I blame the director and screenwriters for not fleshing out both the story and its characters to get us to that point. Instead, we're given an overly long, overly solemn, tedious and often redundant look at wrestling training techniques, lots of solitary scenes with Tatum, sparse dialogue and a few weird moments with Dupont.
On the plus side, the performances are terrific. Carell, buried under a prosthetic nose, is quite good, and so is Tatum, who gives it his all. Too bad the movie, which has the basis for an interesting story, wasn't handled better.
Neil Rosen's Big Apple Rating: One-and-a-half apples