Steroid use in America. It's one of the most talked about topics, the subject of scorn and head-shaking, of fallen sports heroes and false home run records. It's a killer, officials say, and it is a growing problem in all levels of athletic events. Yet, are steroids really as big of deal as people say they are? In Bigger, Stronger, Faster*, Chris Bell explores the steroid problem in his own family, sports and America in general.
While the movie tackles the broad issues found in sports, politics and society, Faster revolves around Bell's own family. Bell, not a tiny guy himself, had dreams of becoming the strongest man alive after seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger as a child; he tried steroids, but was uncomfortable with the practice. His two brothers do not have the same reservations. Raised in the WWF culture of Hulk Hogan, Rambo and other massive heroes, Bell's brothers have been using steroids for years and see them as necessary to remain competitive in their respective "fields."
Bell interviews his brothers about their views, and then expands the discussion to take a look at steroid use in general. He explores the hypocrisy of Arnold Schwarzenneger, who has admitted to using steroids and politically speaks against them, yet sponsors body building tournaments where it is clear that anabolic steroids are used. He interviews people campaigning from both side of the argument, including those who say that there is no proof that steroids have ever killed anyone. Of course, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Floyd Landis are all covered.
The documentary is an interesting one, and surprisingly unbiased. Bell does a good job of presenting the arguments without picking a side; while he states that he is opposed to steroids for ethical reasons, he does not slant his film that way. Less interesting is the discussion about just how dangerous steroids are, but when Bell dives into the ethical dilemma of steroids, the movie really kicks into high gear. Personally, I feel athletic organizations need to draw a stricter line about steroid use, but the biggest question is: where do you draw the line?
Overall, Faster is a very strong documentary that is fast paced, entertaining and informative. The director covers nearly every facet of the issue. The movie stumbles a little bit when Bell decides to spill the beans about his brothers' use of steroids to his parents; the whole situation seems a bit forced and contrived. Still, Bigger, Stronger, Faster* is a convincing and effective documentary.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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