Beyond the Mat

Documentaries are almost always more interesting if the filmmakers fess up about their relationship to the subject, as unabashed pro-wrestling fan Barry Blaustein does in this naively made, compelling homage to the sport. A former writer-producer for Saturday Night Live and first-time director, Blaustein seems to have stumbled into a documentarian’s dream yet manages to appear more empathic than exploitive. His compassion for his subjects and his intuitive ability to coax drama from life are in evidence even as he tries out a documentarian’s tricks, practically engineering a meeting between Jake “the Snake” Roberts and his estranged daughter, and showing Mick “Mankind” Foley footage of his wife and children watching in horror as he’s beaten nearly insensible. All the macho men who let down their guard for Blaustein can be proud of the loving deconstruction of violence-as-entertainment that resulted. City North 14, 600 N. Michigan.

–Lisa Alspector