Ardustry Home Entertainment // 2004 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 19th, 2005
These guys are crazy.
For those of you not content with the thrills that wrestling jaguars or dodging oncoming traffic can provide, have you thought about bull riding?
Adrenaline Cowboys: 8 Seconds to Glory is a documentary chronicling a season with the Professional Bull Riders (PBR), a professional bull-riding league that pits rodeo studs against some pretty pissed-off livestock.
The documentary is rife with both interviews of bull riders and footage of them in action. It features everyone from heavy hitters like legend Ty Murray (Jewel's beau) and Adriano Moraes down to rookie Mike Lee, the-18 year-old phenom PBR champion. Lee receives the primary focus in the documentary, as we are taken from his rise in the Challenger circuit to his showdowns with the sport's top riders in the championships. Intermingled with Lee's story are profiles on riders Kelly Armstrong, an up-and-coming Canadian cowboy; Mike White, a big money earner; and Murray and Moraes. Bo Derek (Bolero) -- still bodacious at 49 -- hosts.
This documentary fell just short of wowing me. Bull riding is as extreme a sport as you can get. What struck me watching the film is this: No matter what, once you get on that bull, you will be savagely dislodged from the saddle. Even if you make the eight-second limit, dismounting is still jumping off a raging bull and landing in the dirt. Seriously, does it get any manlier (read: nuts) than trying to stay on top of a bucking bull with giant spleen-piercing horns? What drives these guys to become bull riders?
Alas, this was a question never really answered for me. Sure, there were the obligatory "I'm a cowboy" and "I love the thrill" answers, but I would think there's got to be something deeper dwelling beneath these dudes. And then again, maybe not. Maybe risking your life on the back of a bull is part and parcel of being a cowboy.
At the end of the day, it seemed Adrenaline Cowboys would be more at home as a special feature on the PBR channel (if there were such a thing). While it's well made and well put together, the feature just doesn't have the teeth. What about the history of bull-riding? And the effects the sport has on personal lives? Also, while the winners are paid exquisitely well, how do the also-rans survive? And sure, there was that brief bit with the cowboys talking about their injuries, but man, people just get smoked doing this. What about some of the tragedies?
I don't want to call Adrenaline Cowboys a whitewash. It isn't. I don't think there's anything to suppress. It's just that the feature struck me more as a great slice of marketing material for the PBR than as a hard-hitting documentary. But I still like it. Actually, I like it a lot and am disappointed in that it could have taken a subject ripe for exploration and really gotten into the heads of these guys who willingly risk their lives night after night.
The disc is pretty lightweight. The full-frame picture quality varies from decently sharp to fuzzy. The DVD shines the most with the bull-riding footage, which is clean and vivid. The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo will do little to envelop you in the ambient sound of hyper bulls trying to kill people; the sound is fairly hollow and could have benefited from a more aggressive LFE mix.
The bonus stuff is okay, if on the short side. A featurette on Mike White and some bonus footage total about ten minutes or so.
While interesting and well put together, Adrenaline Cowboys: 8 Seconds to Glory lacked the narrative depth to really knock my socks off. The profiles are cool and the footage is intense, but the total package was too much like a giant PBR commercial.
Not guilty, though the court wishes there were more meat than potatoes, whatever that means.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Ardustry Home Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Mike White Featurette
* Bonus Footage
* Professional Bull Riders Site