Plot: What’s it about?
This is a documentary film, so it’s hard to write a synopsis like I usually do for fictional movies. So I will give you an idea on what to expect and then you can explore in more depth when you view the film yourself. The director Barry W. Blaustein has always had an interest in professional wrestling and now as an adult, he wanted to seek out some of his favorites as well as explore the business of modern wrestling. This documentary is the result of that desire and while he meets many wrestlers along the way, this film centers on three men. The living legend of wrestling Terry Funk, hard-core icon Mick Foley, and former WWF headliner Jake “The Snake” Roberts are those three men and we learn about their lives in and out of the rings. We watch as Foley takes harsh punishment to the horror of his small children, Funk as his doctor tells him his knees are all but worthless to him now, and Roberts as he meets with his daughter for the first time in years and discusses his inner demons. Sprinkled in between are smaller stories such as New Jack the admitted murderer, Chyna the feminine muscle bound woman, and Spike Dudley, who left the third classroom behind to hear a crowd pop. This is not a film about wrestling, but more of a film about the men and women who choose to wrestle.
This documentary is aimed at wrestling fans to be sure, but I think non fans will also have an appreciation for this behind the curtain look at the world of professional wrestling. This shows us the people behind the characters we see on television and if you follow some of these men’s careers, you could be in for a real wake up call. The sequences with Terry Funk hit home with me the most since I have been a fan of his for years, but all the stories told have some substance behind them. You can tell Blaustein is passionate about the subject and he really helps these athletes paint a picture of what they’re like as people. I know many people have passed this off as wrestling propaganda, but it is far from that to be sure. It is one man’s journey to discover the people he looked up to and find out what they’re like after the last bell rings. This film is nothing less than a must see for fans of professional wrestling and I think anyone interested should rent this one right away. I do want to note that Universal has released two versions of this film, this one being unrated and another being the theatrical R rated version, so make sure you get the one you want.
This documentary was directed by Barry W. Blaustein, who also serves as narrator and interviewer for the movie. His passion and love for wrestling is obvious and that makes this so much more powerful than it might have been in other hands. This is a documentary so the camera work and such is basic, but effective and Blaustein makes sure it all comes across very well. Blaustein is best known for this work as a screenwriter on such films as Coming To America, The Nutty Professor 1 & 2, and Boomerang, but he shows a certain flair for directing here as well. This film doesn’t have real actors since it is a documentary, but Mick Foley, Jake Roberts, and Terry Funk really seem at home in front of the cameras. They share intimate moments and inner thoughts and really let things unfold in the open, which makes this a very powerful and personal movie. Other appearing in this documentary include Vince McMahon, The Rock (The Mummy 2), New Jack, Spike Dudley, Chyna, Darren Drozdrov, and a slew of other performers.
Video: How does it look?
Beyond The Mat is presented in a full frame transfer, which retains the original aspect ratio of the documentary. This film was shot on video so the image isn’t as sharp as most motion pictures, but it looks good for what it is. The image is always acceptable and even the older footage is displayed well, which surprised me. The colors look bright and never smear, while flesh tones seem natural and warm. The contrast is accurate also, with no detail loss and solid shadow depth. I also found no instances of compression errors, in the least.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release contains a 2.0 surround track, but you won’t notice the surrounds aside from some slight usage when the crowd roars in live footage. The music present also comes through well and never distorts. This is a dialogue driven piece and this mix reflects that. The vocals emerge in crisp and clean tones and I detected no volume or separation hiccups. This disc does contain English captions, but no subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release contains the usual production notes, talent files, and theatrical trailer, but it also has some cool alternate audio tracks to check out. The first is a track with director Barry Blaustein, who offers a lot of information on the movie and why it was made, which is very cool. Next is Blaustein with Terry Funk, which is more of a conversation than an audio commentary, but is still a nice inclusion. Finally is a track with Mick Foley, who only discusses the scenes in which he is present. So we get his insight and humor on those sequences, which is certainly a treat.