Beyond the Mat (1999) / Documentary
MPAA Rated: R for language and violent content
Running Time: 102 min.
Cast: Terry Funk, Mick Foley, Jake Roberts, Vince McMahon, Roland Alexander
Director: Barry W. Blaustein
Screenplay: Barry W. Blaustein
Review published October 26, 1999
BEYOND THE MAT is a documentary written and directed by longtime writer of Eddie Murphy's films (NUTTY PROFESSOR I & II, COMING TO AMERICA, BOOMERANG) Barry W. Blaustein. This proves to be his best work to date, and I have to admit my surprise at liking a film about the insides of professional wrestling.
This follows several professional wrestlers, some on their way out (Terry Funk, Jake "the Snake" Roberts) , others on top of their popularity (Mick "Madness" Foley) and those struggling to get in the game. Surprisingly, they get insights into the "sport" whereby many admit it's all predetermined, and it's refreshingly done from a fan's perspective rather than someone out to expose. perhaps that's why the wrestlers and promoters were so open to Blaustein, understanding his love for the pageantry in pro wrestling.
It will forever change my views on pro wrestling, making me respect the abilities of the wrestlers while sickening me on what people find entertaining. Some of it is quite brutal to watch, from Mick Foley's pummeling at the hands of The Rock, to Jake the Snake's inability to resolve a bad relationship with his daughter, to Terry Funk's continuing to get in the ring despite seriously debilitating injuries; BEYOND THE MAT holds nothing back.
While leaving much of the questions about the violent form of entertainment unanswered, this still remains absorbing for one of the most hush-hush billion dollar industries around. A must see for fans of wrestling, and quite interesting for the rest of us who aren't, BEYOND THE MAT gets the championship belt for documentaries in the year 2000.
©1999 Vince Leo