'Foxcatcher' Catches Fire

Movie Review Jackie K Cooper "Foxcatcher" (Sony Picture Classics)

There is an eerie vibe about the movie "Foxcatcher" from its first moments to its last. It is hard to pinpoint what it is but the sterile bleakness of the opening scenes sets a tone that stays with the movie and the main three characters who inhabit this story. Director Bennett Miller cultivates this aura and magnifies it to the nth degree, creating a movie that is haunting and disturbing.

The film primarily focuses on Olympic Gold Medalist Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum). He and his brother David (Mark Ruffalo) both won gold for the sport of wrestling in the 1984 Olympics. Now Mark wants to repeat his glory at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea.

Mark catches the attention of John du Pont (Steve Carell) who wants to establish a training program at his family estate known as "Foxcatcher". He invites Mark to live and train there and also tries to get Dave to join them. Dave however does not want to uproot his family and so Mark goes alone.

The rest of the movie deals with the relationship between John and Mark, and it is a perverse one. John comes from a family of wealth but he feels he has never earned his mother's (Vanessa Redgrave) respect. Mark has had glorious achievements but he feels he has lived in his older brother's shadow. The two men rely on each other to try to escape these feelings of loss.

The acting in this movie is phenomenal. Carell is fitted with a prosthetic nose and several other alterations to his face. He becomes unknowable as the actor and is transformed into du Pont. Then he adopts a manner of speaking and finishes it off with an absorbed acting style. It is an amazing transformation.

Still as good as Carell is, Tatum matches him. This underrated performer jumps into the role of the moody Mark and gives him nuances that only a superbly talented actor could. Mark is the dominant focus of the film and sets up all the tragic events that happen. It takes a charismatic man to handle this load and Tatum does it with ease.

Ruffalo has the less grandiose role but David is a key player in this tragic trio. If this character is not played just right the entire house of cards falls apart. Ruffalo keeps everything balanced and on track. When things begin to spiral out of control it is Ruffalo's David you have to keep your eyes on.

The movie is rated R for profanity and violence.

"Foxcatcher" is as tense a movie as you will ever want to see. You know there is tragedy in the air from the very beginning but you have no idea when and where it will occur. Miller brilliantly keeps the tension sustained from beginning to end. It is a careful balancing act that keeps the audience guessing.

"Foxcatcher" is a cold and aloof film that catches fire and burns the house down with entertainment.

I scored "Foxcatcher" a wrestled 8 out of 10.

Jackie K Cooper