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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

TEAM FOXCATCHER Presents Yet Another Chilling Account of the Murder of Olympic Wrestler Dave Schulz

For those of you who watched 2014's Foxcatcher, which presents a complex look at the circumstances surrounding the 1996 murder of Olympic wrestler Dave Schulz, will get a completely different picture of that story with the new Netflix original documentary, TEAM FOXCATCHER. Not necessarily better or worse, but remarkably disparate. The most distinct difference being the role Dave's brother Mark Schulz played.

In his directorial debut, Jon Greenhalgh presents a focused account of the events leading up to Dave's death at the hands of millionaire John Du Pont, owner of the exclusive, titular Pennsylvania wrestling facility, Team Foxcatcher. Through interviews with fellow wrestling athletes whom Du Pont--under the far more charismatic shadow of Dave--mentored, and Dave's widow, Nancy, TEAM FOXCATCHER steadily unravels Du Pont's mental state while eulogizing Dave for the significant impact he had on those around him. The portrayal of an increasingly psychotic Du Pont emerges, along with and unsuspecting and tragically loyal Dave--with the noticeable absence of his brother Mark.

You may remember in Foxcatcher that Mark was the reason that he and Dave remained on Du Pont's elaborate ranch, despite Mark's pleas otherwise, and that it was Dave's influence on Mark that seemed to have been the catalyst to Du Pont's jealous rage. But in TEAM FOXCATCHER, Du Pont was already predisposed to having a variety of mental and emotional issues that provoked him into wild behavior, including at one point firing all the black wrestlers, playing mind games, and murderous thoughts. This is all without the presence of Mark, who was nowhere to be found (or even mentioned) in the film.

Now, I don't know if this has anything to do with Mark's displeasure over the portrayal of his character in Foxcatcher, but it is curious that he doesn't have a presence in this take on the story--especially since it was previously presented as though the two were quite close. But after reading this Vulture interview with Nancy, it sounds like Mark was in fact not at Foxcatcher at the same time as his brother (which once again begs the question why Foxcatcher chose to fudge the narrative). Regardless, both accounts have led me to believe that there are many layers to this story, some of which we may never quite understand.

While we don't really get an intimate look at Dave Schulz, TEAM FOXCATCHER does succeed at providing the audience with a chilling portrayal of otherwise natural events that led to the murder of a man who meant so much to so many many and who, as quoted in the film, "died for no reason."

Rating: B+ (*** out of *****)

TEAM FOXCATCHER is now streaming on Netflix.


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