Wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and coach John du Pont (Steve Carell) star in Foxcatcher.

Wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and coach John du Pont (Steve Carell) star in Foxcatcher.

Reel Reviews: Wrestling with mania in Foxcatcher

The story that unfolds in the excellent film Foxcatcher is a slow burn, with tension building up to an explosive climax that is memorable.

  • Jan. 11, 2015 2:00 p.m.

Mark and Dave Schultz are brothers and wrestlers who won gold at the 1984 Olympics.

Now a couple years later, the two continue to train at Dave’s humble gym, while making public appearances at local schools for $20 a pop, eating and living rather poorly for Olympic heroes.

Dave is the popular and outspoken brother; younger Mark is reserved and a bit moody. They both have devoted their lives to the sport of wrestling. Dave also has a wife and two kids. Mark only has Dave.

The U.S. Olympic wrestling team organizers are very interested in speaking to Dave about a coaching position for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. They barely acknowledge Mark.

Mark receives a phone call from a man he’s never heard of, John du Pont, of the wealthy American industrialist family. Du Pont wants to fund and coach a premiere wrestling team to compete at the 1987 World Championships and then the 1988 Olympics. Du Pont wants Mark and Dave to be the foundation of that team. Mark agrees to be flown out to Foxcatcher farm, which is on the du Pont estate in Pennsylvania. There, du Pont has built a state-of-the-art training facility for “Team Foxcatcher.”

Mark quickly jumps at the opportunity to get back on top of the wrestling world, while simultaneously getting out from under his older brother’s shadow. However, the real story is not Mark, Dave or even wrestling, it is the little weirdo with the huge nose, John du Pont.

Here is a man, obviously wealthy, yet completely unimpressed with his place in life. Du Pont wants to “do something for America,” while at the same time, doing away with his mother’s legacy of horse breeding and racing. Equestrian sports, in his view, are not true sports at all.

Through wrestling and Team Foxcatcher, du Pont believes he will provide an opportunity to garner what he considers appropriate respect while simultaneously getting out from his mother’s shadow.

Mark and du Pont become close, likely due to their similar familial issues, but the real problem is that du Pont knows very little about wrestling and has an undiagnosed psychosis.

The story that unfolds in the excellent film Foxcatcher is a slow burn, with tension building up to an explosive climax that is memorable, true and worthy of your attention.

Channing Tatum plays Mark Schultz and proves for the first time, in this reviewer’s opinion, that he can act.

Usually funny man Steve Carell is nearly unrecognizable as “The Golden Eagle” (a nickname du Pont gave to himself.) Carell plays the strange and strange looking man so well, he may be nominated for an Oscar.

Finally, Mark Ruffalo plays older brother and murder victim Dave Schultz with such a pronounced mix of pain and worry for the little brother he loves that there is already talk of a supporting actor Oscar for his performance.

Foxcatcher is not playing in Vernon at the moment, and is not available yet on DVD, nor (legal) digital download. Someday soon it will be made available to you. Watch it.

– Taylor gives Foxcatcher 5 grand proboscides out of 5.

– Brian Taylor and Peter Howe are film reviewers based in Vernon, B.C.