“I am leading men and I’m giving America hope,” says John du Pont (Steve Carell) to the camera as he makes a documentary about himself and his attempt to make his estate the official training site for the national wrestling Olympic team in the dramatic film Foxcatcher.
While struggling to make money to cover food and rent as he trains for the 1988 Olympics, Gold Medal winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is summoned by eccentric multi-millionaire John du Pont to move onto his estate and live and train there for the ’88 Olympics. Yearning to escape the shadow of his more popular and more experienced wrestler brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo), Mark agrees and moves into the guest house on the huge estate and helps recruit a team of wrestlers.
Driven by wanting to impress his disapproving mother (Vanessa Redgrave), John du Pont becomes a more hands-on coach to Mark and the other wrestlers. John and Mark develop a mentor/student relationship that evolves into something deeper as Mark becomes engrossed in du Pont’s world of wealth and power. But as time passes and du Pont does not gain the respect he so desperately wants from his mother, he becomes unpredictable, dangerous, and mean towards Mark – even carrying a loaded gun to the wrestling practices and demanding Mark’s brother Dave join them at the training facility.
Dave becomes concerned for his brother who’s grown distant over the phone, he agrees to moving his family to du Pont’s ranch after being offered a substantial amount of money. There, Dave finds Mark to be brooding, self-destructive, and in no shape for the Olympics. Realizing du Pont has been a terrible influence on Mark, Dave positions himself between the two men, trying to get Mark ready both physically and mentally for the wrestling matches while keeping an insistent and persistent du Pont a safe distance from Mark.
Based on a true story, Foxcatcher has two memorable performances delivered by Ruffalo and Carell but sadly suffers from a mediocre script and horrendous pacing. Mark Ruffalo gives by far the best performance in the film as Dave, the loving, likable and dedicated older brother who mentors and coaches his kid brother in wrestling and is by far Mark’s biggest fan. He’s the only decent and truly honest character in the story and the scenes between Ruffalo and Tatum click with brotherly chemistry.
Carell delivers his most serious performance to date as the eccentric and mentally unstable multi-millionaire John du Pont. He captures extremely well the man’s mannerisms, walk and speech, and he’s likely to earn both a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for his portrayal. In the first half of the film, Channing Tatum is solid as the younger brother who gets swept up by the lifestyle and the attention he’s paid by being with du Pont. Unfortunately, he’s reduced to a brooding, sulking and silent oaf in the second half after being abused and betrayed by du Pont.
It’s the lack of depth and insight however into du Pont and what made him go from being an offbeat eccentric to an unbalanced, gun-carrying and murderous sociopath that causes the movie to come up short. It’s a shallow and uninteresting look at a man whose motives and desires are oversimplified. The direction and pacing of the film is another giant problem, with the film crawling along and making a two hours and ten minute movie feel like a ponderous 3+ hour bore.
Leaden and tedious, Foxcatcher fails to offer anything more than a surface examination of the fascinating story of John du Pont and the Schultz brothers.
– Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
Follow Us On: