Bigger Stronger Faster* : The Side Effects of Being American  (2008)    90/100

Rating :   90/100                       Treasure Chest                     105 Min        12A

When I first came across this film I thought to myself ‘What in the name of God is this?’, I almost turned it off, but it was amusing in an ironic sort of way so I hesitated awhile. Good job I did as, of course, it was meant to be ironic, and what unfolds quickly becomes a very, very well put together and fascinating documentary about the use of performance enhancing drugs in the world of sports in America, particularly in the field of weight lifting, but also athletics and baseball. The film is fast paced, fitting in a ton of information – every bit of which is relevant, advances our grasp of the subject, and also manages to deepen the interest level, as the interviews progress from members of the filmmaker’s family, to members of congress and top level athletes like Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis.

It is the fruit of many hours work, and the brainchild of Chris Bell – and for an inexperienced feature filmmaker it’s a sterling production. The footage and interviews with his family over a period of what seems to be a couple of years add a very human relevance and emotional connection to the film, as we see the wide reaching implications of the story unfold. The scope continues to widen as it fits in the big business world of sports supplements, the tales of poster boy stars like Stallone and Schwarzenegger, and it even manages to sneak in an interview with Stan Lee, of Marvel Comics fame, to talk about the popular appeal of the idea of superhuman strength. The asterisk in the title refers to the ones used to mar an athletes record if they are found to be using anything illegal. Sadly, one of the brothers in the film, Mike, died shortly after the film was completed (click here for the details).

A must see movie for anyone who likes well researched, balanced and eye opening documentaries.

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