Friday, May 11, 2012

Grunt! The Wrestling Movie (1985)

I can’t quite tell if Allan Holzman and his writing crew (Anthony Randel, Lisa Tomei and Barry Zetlin) are respecting professional wrestling or mocking it. There are quite a few times in “Grunt” where they lampoon the sport and it’s ridiculous rules, as well as making most of the fans come across as moronic barbarians. The reason I can’t quite tell if this is insulting or not is because wrestling fans ourselves tend to joke about both of these traits.
My question may still stand, but I like to believe that “Grunt” is respecting the business. After all, the wrestling matches themselves are well choreographed. The camera may go a bit haywire in spots, but the action is still visible (for the most part). This chaotic style of filmmaking works well during the battle royal at the end, where grounded wrestling takes to the sidelines for an all out brawl.
For the most part, the wrestling featured in the film is of the violent variety. We open with a battle between “Mad Dog” Joe DeCurso (Greg ‘Magic’ Schwarz) and “Skull Crusher” Johnson (Victor Rivera). The world title and a twenty-five thousand dollar purse is up for stake. It’s a bloody and brutal contest that sees the two combatants decimate each other with punches, kicks, chairs and other various foreign objects. When Johnson’s head gets stuck between the ropes (think Mick Foley, who lost his ear this way years later), “Mad Dog” accidentally dropkicks his head off. That’s right, the contest ends via decapitation.
This right here makes me believe that Holzman may be slandering the sport. It’s not so much the decapitation, as it is the following joke (a funny one, albeit). There’s controversy immediately following the contest, but so much on “Mad Dog” as a murderer (though that’s touched upon, as well). Many are concerned on whether or not Johnson should be stripped of the title. For six long years, he is still dubbed the champion. That is until the president strips him of the gold and puts it on the line a battle royal.
In the midst of this, “Mad Dog” disappears. A new wrestling sensation known as “The Mask” (Steven Cepello) arises and dominates the competition. Many believe that “Mad Dog” may be hiding under the mask, as the wrestling style and body features (such as tattoos) strike a strong resemblance to the former king of the ring.
This prompts a director (Jeff Dial) to begin production on a documentary which is meant to unravel this mystery. He contacts Dr. Tweed (Robert Glaudini), the president of the “Mad Dog is The Mask” fan club (which you can be a member of for only twenty-four dollars a year), to assist him. They tour the country, though mainly just the state of Georgia, following The Mask around and interviewing wrestlers, managers, ring announcers and fans on the subject.
Once again, the question arises on whether or not Holzman is insulting the business. I’ve already mentioned the fans’ mistreatment, but haven’t touched upon the ring announcers and commentators. Most of the men and women in this field either hate the business (such as the ring announcer who wanted to be a psychologist) or are dimwitted (such as the female announcer who proudly states, “I haven’t seen a match this bloody and violent since I started watching wrestling six months ago!”). One wrestling reporter even breaks down and insults the profession immediately following one of his reports.
Whether or not Holzman is respectful to the business or not, he does craft a genial, colorful and often times funny comedy. He does stumble in spots, leaving open too many plot holes (though that may be a strike against the inconsistencies of wrestling storylines), creating the occasional lulls and one questionable wrestling match between two female wrestlers (whose only purpose is, in my opinion, is to prove that wrestling and this film isn’t sexist). There’s also a scenario where “The Mask” shows up on Wally George’s show, “Hot Seat”, that is more embarrassing to watch than it is to enjoy.
Where “Grunt” fails, it exceeds in creating entertaining wrestling matches (my favorite being between “The Mask” and “El Toro”), quite a few funny sequences, a rocking soundtrack (I guarantee you “Wrestling Tonight” will be stuck in your head for days) and a slew of wrestler cameos (including Dick Murdoch and Adrian Street). I may doubt the film’s veneration for the sport, but I can’t deny that it’s a lot of fun!
MVT: The wrestling matches. The camera may go a bit haywire, but the wrestling itself is well choreographed and entertaining.
Make or Break: I’m actually picking the match between “The Mask” and “El Toro”, as opposed to the opening bout between “Mad Dog” and “Skull Crusher”. Simply put, it’s well put together and shows that, at the very least, Holzman knows how to film a wrestling match (the haywire camera is barely seen in this bout).
Final Score: 6.75/10

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