Dir: Bert Marcus (2015)
This glossy made boxing three-way by Bert Marcus certainly has the heart and the soul but lacks the punch. He swings viciously between Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Bernard Hopkins, their troubled upbringing, their rise to fame, their god like status and their imminent downfall. Though Marcus throws a few late winning punches with a deeper view on the financial dangers and occupational safety of this brutal sport but for the most part, excluding Hopkins’s fascinating story, Champs feels altogether too scattered and haphazard for us to come away with anything new or original.
Boxing is full of rags to riches stories; The kids from hood fighting their way to the gold. Stallone of course encapsulated every key moment with his award-winning classic Rocky and it seems like most films about the sport have been forced to walk a similar line. The vicious Tyson, the god fearing Holyfield and the late-blooming Hopkins often hit up against each others thoughts. The contacts are there; From the promoters to analysts and a rather stunned looking Mark Walberg on the set of David O’Russell‘s The Fighter. The intercutting could be to blame for the real lack of flow in Champs but Marcus excels in his beautifully lit training recreations.
The slums are shot like the slums, the interviews don’t really zing and the knock-outs you know so well roll by easily but you’ll be constantly reminded of the fact that the sheer number of films set in and around this world is pretty staggering; Especially when dealing with three incredibly high-profile boxers such as these. Tyson’s story (he’s also producer) here seems moot when compared to James Toback‘s extensive Tyson.
As close to the clichés as the fictional films ride there is always something winning about the image of two men in a ring battering the life out of each other. What the documentary should offer outside of the cemented fictional blueprint is a license to talk more psychologically and personally about the misunderstood boxing world but Champs doesn’t quite go there as often as it should.