Judge Daryl Loomis doesn't mind getting hit, but stay away from the face. That's his moneymaker.
Fighters. Champions. Brothers.
The last decade has not been the most storied time in history for heavyweight boxing, especially in the United States. Part of that is because, for top American athletes of a certain size, there are more lucrative and less brutal ways to make a living. Part of that, though, is that there are two Ukrainian men who have, for the greater part of that time, made the lives of all their challengers miserable. These giants of men, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, are brothers, doctors, and champions, and the undisputed kings of their division.
In Klitschko, director Sebastian Dehnhardt profiles the duo in a compelling documentary that doesn't quite go where I had assumed. Sports documentaries, on the whole, tend toward either glorifying their subjects or knocking them down and turning them into tragic figures. The latter would be pretty hard; these two guys, with their massive height and massive brains, make pretty good showings of themselves in the ring and in life. Likewise, it would be easy to turn to the former for the exact same reasons, but Dehnhardt goes in a different direction.
Klitschko focuses in mostly on the duo's losses, few and far between as those might be. Vitali hasn't been knocked down in his career and his only two losses came by way of injury. Wladimir's record is a little spottier, but not lately, and together, they hold all the major belts in the alphabet soup of boxing titles. Honing in on losses, there isn't a ton of material for Dehnhardt to work with, but even at its two hour running time (considerable for a sports documentary), he keeps the film engaging and entertaining throughout.
There are two simple things in Klitschko: interviews and fight footage. The fighting takes a back seat to the discussion, but slow motion footage of these strongmen crushing the faces of their opponents is rough to watch, but totally compelling. It's the most brutal sport on Earth when shown in this way; watching faces turn to gelatin as a fist sends boxers crashing to the canvas has a lot of the same appeal as a horror movie, with the added horror of reality, so there is always merit in this.
It's the interviews, though, where the film really shines. The Klitschkos, obviously, get a ton of face time, and present themselves as the intelligent, introspective characters that they usually come across as, with discussions about their challenges as boxers and the deep respect they have for one another. The most compelling stuff, though, comes in the interviews with others and the outside footage Dehnhardt presents. For the interviews, there are a few with their parents, a lot with their opponents, such as American luminaries like Shannon Briggs and Lamon Brewster, whose interviews gave me a lot of respect for him, as well as hall of famer Lennox Lewis, the last man to beat Vitali, and legendary (and now late) boxing trainer Emanuel Steward who, despite the fact that his place in boxing lore is secure, says some crazy junk that reiterates the character he was. The whole documentary is well filmed and expertly put together, making Klitschko one of the best sports docs you're likely to find.
Klitschko arrives on DVD from Corinth in a decent but thoroughly unspectacular release. As far as sports documentaries go, the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is perfectly average. The interview segments look fine, with the archival fight footage varies based on when it happened and where it aired, with newer HBO material at broadcast quality and older German material looking decidedly worse. On the whole, though, it's all you can expect for something like this. The Dolby 5.1 Surround mix is a little better than expected, though, with a lot of pop in the low end, especially during the fight footage, where big punches are given a little extra oomph. The dialogue is always easy to hear and the subtitles are clear. Extras include a few minutes of deleted scenes, a photo gallery, and a trailer. Nothing big, but a perfectly acceptable disc.
Die-hard boxing fans may not hear a lot of information in Klitschko they don't already know, but its presentation is fantastic. The focus on how the brothers overcame their adversities to become the most dominate siblings in boxing history works exceptionally well, making for one of the better boxing docs I've seen. Boxing fan or not, anybody who likes a well-produced sports film filled with great footage and insightful interviews should do themselves a favor and have a look at the film.
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