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Case Number 18956: Small Claims Court

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Pulling John

IndiePix // 2009 // 72 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // May 24th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Franck Tabouring prefers pushing to pulling. Don't ask why...

The Charge

He's a new kind of superhero: a real one!

The Case

Vassiliki Khonsari's and Sevan Mattossian's Pulling John is a fascinating little documentary you simply can't miss. Shot over four years in different locations around the world, the film focuses on three compelling individuals who've been working incredibly hard to gain attention and respect in the sport of arm wrestling. In the movie, Khonsari and Mattossian follow these three athletes as they gear up for a series of important competitions, offering viewers an insight into their personal lives. It's one of the most entertaining feature documentaries I've seen in a long time.

The main guy in Pulling John is John Brzenk, the ultimate arm-wrestling champion. He helped popularize the sport many years ago, and he's the man pretty much every other arm wrestler around the world looks up to. His success also makes him a big target, and that's where Alexey Voevoda and Travis Bagent come in. Two young stars on the rise, these two aggressive arm wrestlers are working hard to get a shot at dethroning Brzenk. Voevoda is a determined Russian athlete who spends all his time training for the next tournament, while Bagent is an energetic West Virginian whose mouth is as big as his biceps.

What I enjoyed so much about this film is that it doesn't solely focus on these folks as they gear up for the big competitions. Pulling John is a very personal film, and it offers viewers an interesting look at who these individuals are in private. Brzenk, for instance, tells us he's been wrestling with the thought of retiring, even though he can't really imagine leaving his sport for good. As far as Voevoda is concerned, we get to experience him in Russia, where everybody respects him for performing so well on an international level. Bagent also invites the filmmakers to meet his family and dig deeper into who he is and what brought him to arm wrestling.

Pulling John is a perfectly structured documentary that balances its mountain of content very well. This film only runs for 72 minutes, but the filmmakers even managed to include plenty of footage from arm-wrestling tournaments as well as short segments tracing the history of the sport and giving audiences a crash course of how arm wrestling really works. To cut a long story short, it's a pleasure to watch this thing; it gave me a whole new perspective on the sport. Who would've imagined arm wrestling could be this fascinating?

Let's take a look at what this DVD has to offer. The disc comes with a clean 1.78:1 widescreen transfer, and the quality of the footage certainly delivers the goods. Considering this is a fast-paced documentary shot out in the field, image and audio do just the right job. No complaints here. In terms of bonus material, the DVD offers a whole bunch of additional scenes, as well as a graphic comic and an audio commentary with the filmmakers and Brzenk. The latter really is the highlight of the special features, primarily because it offers a lot of extra information about Brzenk and the filmmakers' journey to get this film made.

Pulling John is a must-see, no matter what you think of arm wrestling. It will pull you right in, offering a show you'll easily enjoy to the fullest extent. It's a sincere documentary with a lot of heart and muscle, and it would certainly be a great addition to your DVD collection.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: IndiePix
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 72 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary
• Bonus Scenes
• Comic Book


• IMDb

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