Unexpectedly decent, this. The postmodern Wes Craven approach is writ large in its first half, and the obvious references pay off in grisly amusement rather than belly-laughs, as they should. It’s also effectively atmospheric, as the tropes start to die off and our main characters succumb to the creeping realisation that there are no rules to this horror movie. If there’s anything really wrong it it, it’s that it suffers from the same problem as that other colossal horror tussle: it’s far too long before the titular characters go one on one.
Charlie Ebersol, being the son of Dick, is maybe too close to this story to give it the treatment it deserves. One can also point out that the level of access required wouldn’t be available without the willing participation of Vince McMahon, and it should be noted he’s not exactly circumspect here about the failure of his first foray into ‘real’ sport. Except it’s not his first such foray: the film ignores that he did it twice before, in boxing and bodybuilding, among a number of other pay-per-view failures beyond his bread and butter of pro wrestling. That’s the proper context for the experiment that was the XFL, which the film rightly positions as less of a failure than most give it credit for. Sure, the film was probably always intended as a favourable reminiscence – and it works best when highlighting the bits that worked, the stars it (almost) made, and the mistakes that (Vince says) weren’t of its own making – but fair is fair.
It’s certainly a singular vision of JG Ballard’s 1970s dystopic social satire. The book left me cold, which was perhaps the intended effect, but Ben Wheatley — and writer/regular collaborator Amy Jump — tease out the bleak, black comedy in the situation, if the satire remains just as blunt.
As lengthy music documentaries go, it’s not as detailed or as exhaustive as the Tom Petty one, the benchmark by which all must be judged. And it’s certainly more fun in its first half, as the members coalesce and the good times roll and the tunes we catch ourselves humming in our heads are written, before the drugs and acrimony and bland songwriting set in. The last hour, depicting their first reunion, is a slog and a half, especially if you’re not an Eagles fan. So overall, a mild thumbs-up with caveats.
I’d forgotten how good an actor Cameron Diaz could be in roles with some gravitas.