Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows (1998)(Politics)

Professional wrestling: none of us here at Altdoc are even going to pretend to know the first thing about it. Apart from recalling its early heydays as a mid-80s Saturday morning phenomenon staffed by oily, Lycra-clad, bicep-flexing, index-finger-pointing, frequently-wheezing men with intriguing monikers and costumes ("Rowdy" Roddy Piper; Andre the Giant; "Macho Man" Randy Savage, and of course, the ubiquitous, oft-parodied, currently-lecherous Hulk Hogan), professional wrestling has just not been on anyone's radar round these parts.

To get an idea of what this particular genre of entertainment consists of, picture a Venn diagram with "reality television" as the left circle and "professional sports" as the right circle, and then turn it into one of the Led Zeppelin IV symbols by adding a third circle, one labelled "daytime soaps". The intersecting area is the only conceivable description befitting the World Wrestling Federation. Astoundingly, thousands and thousands of people follow the WWF characters and events with messianic-like devotion, selling out stadiums around the world and taking the whole spectacle entirely seriously. Not only children, but grown adult women look to these questionably-coiffed actors as role models and personal heroes. We at Altdoc did not know about this!

Brett "The Hitman" Hart is the protagonist of this documentary, a professional wrestler hailing from Calgary who was in the employ of the WWF (and its intimidating, outrageously successful CEO, Vince McMahon) for 14 years, when--through a downright bizarre backflip of fan loyalty--his "good guy" character suddenly morphed into an unforeseen "Canadian villain" character, an archetype that was born with, and will undoubtedly be buried with, Mr. Hart. The fantasy playground of TV abruptly turned personal and political for the unexpectedly-tender-hearted professional wrestler; suddenly, his career became coloured by intensive patriotism and vindictiveness on both sides of the 49th parallel, wherein our Best Friends Down South began living up to ugly stereotypes by desecrating Canadian flags, and Hart began giving impassioned speeches about Canadian standards of living prior to commencing another round of choreographed battle.

A nicely-shot, unpretentious, and engrossing film that is punctuated by two things (at least in our opinion): Hart's father, one of the most swaggering, frightening, fascinating patriarchs ever committed to celluloid; Hart's composed wife, whose quicksand-thick Eastern Canada dialect renders it virtually impossible to absorb anything she says with a straight face.

added by: nadya