Foxcatcher begins with Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum, who usually restricts himself to goofball comedies), a socially-awkward character, telling a group of schoolchildren about how he takes part in wrestling because it enabled him to win the gold medal in the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics. The year, now, is 1987 and he’s looking towards the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. However, before that comes along he gets a call from millionaire owner of Foxcatcher Farms, John du Pont (Steve Carell, in nearly-unrecognisable make-up), who wants to help him train and reach his Seoul goal.
But what’s in it for du Pont? Mark doesn’t ponder that one before falling in lust with the surroundings of his new training facility, and wanting to excel but it’s not easy when there are other temptations on offer, whilst dealing with the pressures of his career. Du Pont proves he’s clearly not in the right mind by some of the disturbing and shocking actions he takes, which I won’t spoil here, and if you don’t know the true story behind the film – as I didn’t – then I urge you not to look it up before you watch this.
Both Carell and Tatum are synonymous with comedy films, so this is a marked departure for both of them, and in that respect they both pull it off, but the film as a whole feels overlong and flawed. That said, whilst I’ve said it feels overlong, later events in the film don’t seem to make sense and I had to look up the true story afterwards, which showed that we’d skipped a considerable amount of years to get there. I realise you can’t spend a massive amount of the film getting from A to B in that timeframe, but they could’ve kept the same length whilst taking some time out from the meat of the film and using it for the later events so they weren’t inexplicable.
The rest of the cast gives us Mark Ruffalo as Mark’s brother David, and he’s okay, but while I’ve never seen Ruffalo give a bad performance, his role as trainer just seems pedestrian compared to the prosthetics-bound two leads. Sienna Miller plays David’s wife Nancy, and I wouldn’t have known that was her without her being listed in the cast, which is probably a good thing as I’ve never seen her give a performance that’s made me sit up and take notice – in fact, lately she seems best known for moaning about her phone being hacked.
There’s also Vanessa Redgrave as du Pont’s mother, Jean, but if ever there was a case of someone turning up for two seconds just to collect a cheque, it’s her. Former Brat-packer Anthony Michael Hall is also in the cast, but clearly made such a great impression on me as I can’t remember a single scene in which he appeared.
So, watch Foxcatcher for the drama performances from the two lead actors and the general look of the period of the film with its dull, muted colours, but the lacklustreness (if that’s a word) of everything else going on here will leave you feeling short-changed and having to look up the true story to find out how it all fitted together.
Running time: 129 minutes
Studio: Entertainment One
Released: January 9th 2015
Director: Bennett Miller
Producers: Anthony Bregman, Megan Ellison, Jon Kilik and Bennett Miller
Screenplay: E Max Frye and Dan Futterman
Music: Rob Simonsen
John du Pont: Steve Carell
Mark Schultz: Channing Tatum
David Schultz: Mark Ruffalo
Nancy Schultz: Sienna Miller
Jean du Pont: Vanessa Redgrave
Jack: Anthony Michael Hall
Henry Beck: Guy Boyd
Fred Cole: Brett Rice
Alexander Schultz: Jackson Frazer
Danielle Schultz: Samara Lee
Wayne Kendall: Francis J Murphy III
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.