When it comes to wrestling movies, they usually range from the over the top fare like Ready to Rumble, to Mickey Rourke’s bleak and depressing The Wrestler. Heel Kick! falls firmly in the middle of these two.
Ready to Rumble treated wrestling like it wasn’t predetermined and turned the over the top nature of wrestling all the way up to 11. The Wrestler depressingly slathered itself all over in the sad, life crushing, failed dreams of wrestlers who can’t let go. Heel Kick! finds a comfortable balance between the two, both acknowledging the reality of wrestling, but also having some laughs along the way.
The movie centres around Reggie, a guy who doesn’t have a whole lot going on in his life. I’ll spare you the exact details of his life (the movie will fill you in, many times with some good laughs), but suffice it say he’s in a bit of a rut. The one thing he has going for him (so he thinks) is the fact that he feels he is destined to become a pro-wrestler. It’s just, you know, he hasn’t quite gotten around to doing it yet.
Add in a best friend in Maurice, his family, and a local wrestling promotion (real life Vancouver based wrestling promotion ECCW), and it all adds up in his attempt to become a wrestler.
Now, as I discussed with Danny Mac about his movie last week, wrestling can be a hard product to market to the masses. You both want to attract your wrestling fan base, while at the same time, not alienate people who know nothing about wrestling. And this is where the movie shines, because you don’t really need to know anything at all about wrestling to enjoy it.
The movie at its heart is about someone deciding to chase their pie in the sky dreams, and to finally stop procrastinating about it; it’s a universal theme that many people can relate to. And it’s a theme that plays itself over and over again, quite realistically, over the course of the movie. Again, I don’t want to ruin anything, so I’ll just say that the movie is very good about keeping things grounded, which is what makes it feel more real. They aren’t selling you on a guy getting to Wrestlemania, they are simply telling the tale of what happens to a guy who tries to train to become an indie wrestler.
And that’s not to say that wrestling fans won’t love it, either. With a wrestling movie you have to tread a careful line of winking at the camera about wrestling, while also showing you love and respect the business. It’s kind of like your local sports team. It’s ok for you to make fun of them, because deep down you know and love the team. But if an outsider comes along and makes fun of it? Well, screw that guy, he can’t do that!
Which is why Danny bringing in Scotty Mac and ECCW, the local wrestling organization in Vancouver, was such a smart move. One, it shows how serious Danny took the movie (ECCW wrestlers trained the cast of the movie), and two, it gets a blessing of sorts from real wrestlers. And throughout the movie, you will see a loving homage to wrestling, ranging from everything from wrestling video games, to Sandman smoking references, to Reggie performing mock wrestling moves on his mom.
One of my favourite scenes of the movie was when Scotty Mac and other wrestlers talked about how they rated a match. We are far past the time of wrestlers almost attacking a reporter for daring to question if wrestling is “real”. Having a glimpse “behind the curtains” helped endear the movie to me, and made it feel like a real representation of what might happen when someone tries to become a wrestler with little previous training or background in it. That honesty was very refreshing for a wrestling movie, and helped add to the documentary style it’s presented in.
There are plenty of laughs in the movie, to go along with the story. One scene had an “outdoor” wrestling ring retort that had me laugh quite hard, as well as the family interactions with Reggie and his brother.
You’ll also probably see a few winks and nods to indie film making itself, as the troubles of making the actual movie itself play a large part in the movie as well.
Watching this movie, it felt a bit like FUBAR, in that you’re watching a mockumentary about an odd slice of human life. You don’t have to understand where the people are coming from to take part in where they’re going.
If you’re a wrestling fan, you should see this movie, no question about it. Hell, if you’re an ECCW fan, you should watch it alone for all the cameos from ECCW wrestlers/staff you’ll see in it (a match in the movie takes place at the RCC). You might even see yourself standing in line in one of the scenes.
If you’re not a wrestling fan? It’s still a great flick and a good chance to understand wrestling a little bit better.
If you want to see Heel Kick!, they have two showings at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver.
Both have a Q&A, and a Donnelly-Group Sponsored after-party, with buses outside the theater to shuttle people to the bar.
You can buy tickets for the movie at heelkickmovie.com.