One the worst elements of sports may be the need to win at absolutely any cost.  Foxcatcher captures part of this desire by looking at a tragedy that began when two such personalities came together to earn glory -- and resulted in tragedy.  (It's even more disturbing that the movie is based on a real-life series of events.)

In 1987, Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) was, surprisingly, in a bad place.  Even though he won a gold medal for wrestling, he was overshadowed by his brother David (Mark Ruffalo), who also won a gold medal and more fame -- plus he has a wife, kids, and home.  Mark, by contrast, lives in a small apartment and makes money taking jobs that were intended for his brother.

Mark sees a change in his fortune when he's approached and professionally courted by John du Pont (Steve Carrell).  John is an amazingly rich man who sees himself as an American patriot, and he wants to coach Mark and his fellow wrestlers into winning the gold again in the 1988 Olympics.  He gives Mark a real salary, state-of-the-art training facilities, and a combination coach and father figure for the wrestler.  John also wants David to join the team, but David won't relocate his family, even with John's money,

At first Mark seems to thrive under John -- until John's controlling nature starts revealing itself: John tells people what to say when talking about him, gives himself his own nickname ("the golden eagle"), pushed his hobbies like bird-wacthing on others, and gets childishly upset when anything doesn't go his way.  He's also clearing struggling with mother issues, as his mother (Vanessa Redgrave, in the movie briefly but effectively) can make him feel like nothing with just a look or sentence.  And it should be no surprise that things get even more tense when John manages to get David to join his wrestling team.

Foxcatcher is an intense, pretty impressive drama.  Steve Carrell is an impressive surprise, as behind his prosthetic nose is a lazy, snide delivery that seems creepy no matter what he says.  Channing Tatum does a solid job as the frustrated athlete who loves and competes with his brother, while unable to handle any setbacks.  And Mark Ruffalo matches Tatum as a well adjusted, family man whose competitive nature doesn't get in the way of his family relationships.  Foxcatcher is almost relentlessly grim -- and hardly a universal look at the professional sports world -- but the actors and drama are quite effective.  (The dvd extras are deleted scenes.)

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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