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Stars: Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller, Anthony Michael Hall, Guy Boyd, Brett Rice

Director: Bennett Miller

This is one strange movie (based on fact); its speech and action are very deliberately paced. But its performances are fine, even though it makes no attempt to explain its final dramatic events.

Tatum is Mark Schultz, a wrestling champion who won an Olympic gold medal in 1984. Three years later, we find him and his older brother Dave (the always excellent Ruffalo) training doggedly for the 1987 world championships, with another Olympics to come the following year.

Into their lives comes America's richest man, John 'Eagle' du Pont (played by an unrecognisable Carell with a serious prosthetic nose), himself a formidable wrestler and now boss of the largest chemical corporation in the world. Du Pont's elderly mother (Redgrave) runs a stable of thoroughbred horses. while, across the grounds, her son has his own stable - of top-class wrestlers, which Mark soon joins.

Determined to win gold medals with his latest acquisition, du Pont develops a (some might think unhealthy) obsession with the beefcake of the younger Schultz. Against the wrestler's wishes, the billionaire brings in a reluctant Dave, complete with his family, to help train Mark for glory.

Unfortunately, du Pont also introduces his prize protegé to cocaine, leading to a somewhat chequered path through the olympic trials, and eventual disaster.

Although the film isn't really about wrestling, it's not helped by the sport failing to make the adrenalin flow on screen in the way that boxing might. And, although Tatum is good, the introverted nature of his character makes him difficult to approach, leaving Carell's oddly hypnotic du Pont and Ruffalo's outgoing Dave to attract our attention rather more.

There are barely any other characters in the film (Redgrave and Miller have almost nothing to do) as the bizarre, halting, difficult-to-define triangle at its head fragments into a violent finale. In the end, it falls into the 'interesting' category without quite setting the screen on fire.

David Quinlan

USA 201. UK Distributor: E One (Sony Pictures Classics). Colour (unspecified).
134 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 0.

Review date: 04 Jan 2015