(Documentary. Starring Barry Bonds and Carl Lewis. Directed by Christopher Bell. Rated PG-13; 1:46. Opens Friday, July 11, at Village 8 Theatres. LEO Report Card: A)
Bigger. Stronger. Faster. It’s an established American expectation. In this thought-provoking documentary, director and narrator Christopher Bell displays the correlation between our nation’s thirst for political dominance and what our sports industry has become. He confronts the controversy of steroids both on a personal level, as he investigates the use of the drug by his own brothers, and also on a national level, by speaking with members of Congress, medical professionals and world-famous athletes.
The audience doesn’t have to be the least bit interested in sports to be enthralled by the film: It’s not just a bunch of bodybuilders and baseball players entwining their huge muscles with ’roid lingo; conversely, it doesn’t include high-ranking athletes keeping the audience naïve by denying to ever use them. Both sides of the spectrum make a bold and defined stance in a candid, no-bullshit way.
The film takes place in a variety of different settings — from Floyd Landis’ altitude chamber to Capitol Hill to a suburban family home — with each person sharing a personal experience with steroids. Some say the drug completely ruined their lives, proclaiming the dangers and the unethical outcomes of the “performance enhancers,” while others swear steroids were a savior.
Every person, whether a user or the wife of a user, unlocks an entire other series of controversial questions with an exponentially growing spectrum of possible answers. It was almost annoying how much the film made me think. But it was the best kind of aggravation. Bell would open up one set of issues, persuading me into a heated opinion, and then before I knew it, he would switch to a whole other aspect of steroid use and get me going all over again. That’s a lot, considering I am as far from an athlete or “sports girl” as Fox News is from a quality media source.
Even the organization of the film was appeasing. It included a comfortably comedic variety of pump-it-up music and superhero images of buff, oiled-up bodybuilders. Just as Bell would conduct an interview that really hit home, to the point of evoking a glistening tear or two, he would cut to a hilariously theatrical WWE performance with Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” playing suggestively in the background; it was just enough to keep the movie from being dark.
In the end, you still get the bigger picture. The point driven home is that this accepted drug use is a side effect of being a part of the American society. While opinions are presented from all points of view, room is left for the audience to decide whether striving so hard for dominance is actually hurting our society more than helping it.
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