Monday, February 21, 2011

Half Nelson, Full Nelson, Father Nelson

First things first – I am a long term, unapologetic fan of professional wrestling. Sure, my taste in styles and wrestlers may have changed over my 20+ year fandom of the industry known to some as “sports entertainment”, but I have remained a fan of the overall pseudo-sport. Yes, I have heard it all – “duh, you know it’s fake right?”, “they are all just a bunch of steroid abusers”, “I bet you love Hulk Hogan”, “hillbillies like that, are you a hillbilly?”, “gonna watch NASCAR next?”. And to that, I say – “yes, and so is Chuck – your point?”, “not all of them”, “nah, I’ve always hated him”, “No, I’m at least 5 times smarter than a hillbilly” and “no, that shit sucks”. I’ve seen wrestling be popular, I’ve seen it be unpopular; I’ve watched it on TV, I’ve had guys fall on me; I’ve seen one of my all time favourites be involved in one of the greatest moments ever, and less than a year later saw him become a real life monster. The point is, wrestling has been a huge part of my life for almost ¾ of it.

And yes, I have seen a bunch of movies that featured wrestling in some way or another (I don’t just watch movies because they feature wrestlers or wrestling) – some good, a lot bad. Today’s film is one of the bad ones, but it’s made with such a charm and heart that it moves across to being good. Today’s film is Grunt: The Wrestling Movie.

Made in the style of a mockumentary, Grunt investigates the mystery surrounding The Mask (Steve Strong, former tag partner of beloved TV conspiracy nut and former Governer of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura) – the hottest new superstar in the biz. Filmmaker Leslie Uggams (no, not THE Leslie Uggams) is making the film, at the behest of Dr Tweed, to help prove to the world that The Mask is, in fact, Mad Dog Joe Di Curso – former world champion, who is believed to have taken his life after accidentally decapitating his opponent in the ring. Dr Tweed has noticed several similarities between the way the two men wrestle, and has made it his mission to prove that they are the same man, even going so far as to declare himself president of the Mad Dog Is Mask Fanclub. Together, the two men follow (some may even say hound) The Mask on his journey to the gain the championship, as well as visit with notable members of Joe’s past, trying to put together the evidence they need.

Along his way to the championship bout, The Mask tussles with the Mexican hero El Toro (MANDO! Guerrero), a couple of drunken rednecks (Dick Murdoch and Dick “The Destroyer” Beyer, who are basically playing themselves – trust me, I grew up watching these guys), a fanatical right wing chat show host (Wally George, doing his best Morton Downey impression, in a scene that is inspired by the real life incident between David Schultz and John Stossel), The Human Pyramid and even his own manager – Angel Face, which causes him to go from being a good guy to the baddest of the bad. All the while, ducking the Doc and Leslie who are helping “Mad Dog Is Mask" Fever spread like wildfire throughout the wrestling world.

The first thing you notice about Grunt is that it was made on a budget of 4 sandwiches and a shoelace, and yet they were still able to rope in a bunch of top (well, top for the mid 80s) of the old territory system wrestlers, including ex-WWF tag champion Danny Spivey – these guys who, no doubt got most of the money the money. The actual actors in the film are charmingly terrible (with the best performances being “Exotic” Adrian Street and Lydie Denier, who plays Angel Face as a stuck up rich bitch) and the whole project looks like it was filmed by “whoever we could call that had a camera”. So, you are not going to be graced with a film that is technically sound, but it does the basics with a charm that will win over any fan of bad movies.

If you are expecting a film that has great acting, a superb plot or is going to win any major awards, then I suggest you go far away from this. But if you are looking for a film that doesn’t shy away from being silly, has a really bizarre charm and revels in the over the top world of pro wrestling – then I can recommend this to you. Especially if you do what I did, and find it for a buck at a discount store.

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