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12/20/1998 10:14:22 AM

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER REVIEW
an energy that can't be denied


An emotionally affecting documentary on career, patriotism and
loyalty make's it US premiere on A&E;, and it's all the more astonishing
because of it's subject: professional wrestling.
The story shows what the documentary medium can do when the
producers have the patience to stick with a subject and are lucky enough
to find a highstakes dramatic conflict. Who'd have thought the final
days of pro wrestler Bret "The Hitman" Hart's career with the WWF would
have turned into a legitimately emotional behind the scenes drama?
The 2 hr report "Hitman Hart: Wrestling with '''shadows" is a
fascinating look at the top echelons of pro wrestling, at a man who took
his character very seriously indeed and at a family that devoted itself
to the sport: Hart's father was a pro wrestler who turned his family
into a franchise-young Hart's seven brothers became wrestlers, and his
four sisters married wrestlers.
As the No 1 good guy character for the federation, Hart devoted 14
yrs to working with WWF owner Vince McMahan and developing his
"babyface" (heroic) character.
But even the mighty fall, and it's nearly heartrending to watch Hart
as he must change his character from hero to "heel" It's natural
progression in an era when outlaws are praised and bad behavior in the
ring is met with wild applause.
It's good to be booed, explains a wrestler, who considers it an honor
to deveolpe a "bad guy" persona. But Hart never quite embraces the dark
side and evinces a real reluctance to insult America as part of his
persona as a Canadian thug.
The climax comes when Hart butts heads with McMahon in a contract
dispute and the question arises whether Hart will go out a hero in his
final match for the WWF in Canada. But McMahon can't be happy that his
fighter is heading to Ted Turner's WCW. The docu team tries to cover
all the angles, and sometimes a bit of momentum is lost as it focuses on
peripheral kin. But theres' an energy that can't be denied and viewers
are likely to stay to the very end of the bout between Hart and McMahon.

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HITMAN HART wrestling with shadows
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