The Smashing Machine – The Life and Times of Extreme Fighter Mark Kerr
I’m instantly wary of any documentary that has “The Life and Times” in the title. Nonetheless, this movie proved to be a wonderful surprise. (Thanks to Apu for clarifying a confusing sentence in this review)
For a man of his size and sport, Mark Kerr is amazingly intelligent and eloquent. A former college wrestler, Kerr turned to mixed martial arts fighting to make a living. This type of fighting, better known in the states by the brand name Ultimate Fighting, is extremely popular in Japan, as are the fighters that compete there. Their PRIDE fighting sells out stadiums and brings in huge money for the fighters involved. A single match or tournament win can bring a fighter upwards of $200,000. This is usually why these men turn to the sport. Besides boxing and sports entertainment wrestling, there is little chance for them to make money any other way.
In The Smashing Machine, we watch as Kerr fights, brutalizing both his opponents and his body. The pain he experiences, both physically and emotionally, causes him to take a path of self-medication. He’s such a smart man that the casualness with which he slips into his addictions and vices is frightening.
The film is shot on Digital Video and seems to be there through every moment of his life and addiction. The camera work is serviceable and the DV format gives it whole movie a voyeuristic feel to it. We really feel that we are a part of Kerr’s entourage – he never asks that the camera be shut off and he’s completely candid in his interviews and conversations. They picked the perfect documentary film subject, a man who hides nothing.
This film really defied my expectations about fighters and the lives they lead. As a fan of such events, I was surprised their motivations for getting into the sport. Many do it simply because they need to feed their families.
The Smashing Machine is emotional and at times, heartbreaking. It’s rendered all the more so because Kerr has perspective on his addiction and he realizes the lengths he must go to in order to beat it.
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
A great little documentary that has something for everyone. It’s emotionally charged, plus it comes with a boat-load of ass kicking. Highly recommended.