Long before becoming the terror of dance floors everywhere, The Ultimate Dancing Machine, yours truly, was a fanatic about professional wrestling. Yeah, I always knew it was fake, and had a pretty good idea how they pulled off all these stunts without getting injured/maimed/killed--I didn't care. (I knew The Blair Witch Project was fake, too; it still freaked me out.) This behind-the-scenes documentary about the pro wrestling scene was for me basically a visit to old friends--and it was still a revelation.The man behind the camera is Barry Blaustein, a screenwriter who was responsible for a handful of Eddie Murphy movies I didn't bother to see. There's a bit too much Blaustein here for my taste. He burdens the movie with an ill-advised framing sequence, and his too-earnest narration is a source of constant, if admittedly mild, irritation from one end of the movie to the other. Fortunately, the movie is pretty damn interesting whenever he just allows the wrestlers to speak for themselves.
Here we have 50+ year old Terry Funk, whose psycho cowboy act proves to be quite far removed from the pious family man he is in "real life." Funk, whose knees are so bad his own doctor can't figure out how he's able to walk, risks permanent injury while he decides whether he wants to retire. Then there's Jake Roberts, a substance abuser and deeply troubled man who freely confesses that he hates himself. Watching Roberts' life practically fall apart on camera, as a reunion with his estranged daughter goes bad, is pretty painful. There are some other notable vignettes as well: the wrestler who talks about his interest in Shakespeare (while bleeding profusely from his forehead); the rookie who hopes to cash in on his ability to vomit at will; another interviewee who talks about his four "justifiable homicides"; and others.Truth is stranger than fiction. Pro wrestling is stranger than either. This isn't a masterpiece of filmmaking, but it's an interesting look at an interesting subject.