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"Foxcatcher": Wrestling Is a Dangerous Sport 

Tuesday, Nov 18 2014
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So now we know what happens when the too-eccentric millionaire heir to a dynasty of chemicals herds guileless young men into his basement for some competitive grappling. In retrospect it surely was a red flag when John Du Pont, seeking to redeem a fallen 1980s America through Olympic wrestling, brought his pistol into the practice room — every coach has his own methods, of course, but Foxcatcher takes pains to reiterate that some are unsustainable. The director is Bennett Miller, of Capote and Moneyball, here earnestly spinning a true-crime yarn into a very serious picture indeed. Most significant of Du Pont's hopefuls were the Schultz brothers, Mark and Dave, played by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo with the right body language for a fine duet of oafish credulousness. It seems like a key expository detail that after a few minutes of these two quietly throwing each other around on the mat, Dave is the one who asks for a hug. As Du Pont, in distracting makeup, Steve Carell turns his discipline for about-to-pop stillness to tragic instead of comic purposes. That means a lot of ghoulish lingering, and processing the assertion from a formidably chilly mother (Vanessa Redgrave) that wrestling is a "low" sport. It being sometimes a silly sport is a fact that all involved in Foxcatcher seem unwilling to admit, so Tatum's dutiful prestige performance, in particular, misses out on his flair for the self-deprecating goof. Meanwhile, though nobody will notice come awards time, Anthony Michael Hall, as a muted Du Pont functionary, does some of the best and least affected acting in the whole movie.

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Jonathan Kiefer

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SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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