“Foxcatcher’s” true crime mystery falls flat

Foxcatcher-web
Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo in The Foxcatcher. Photo courtesy of Scott Garfield – Fair Hill, LLC

“Foxcatcher,” directed by Bennett Miller, is the latest turnout of a true crime thriller, and while it brings some gravitas to this genre, it tends to be a bit melodramatic.

What is it about true crime stories that just hook people? Is it the feeling that we like to solve the mystery along the way and come up with our own conclusions? Or do we already know the outcome and are just curious about the sets leading up to a horrible crime? “Cold Blood” was a best seller and the “Serial” podcast is topping the iTunes charts. It’s safe to say that everyone likes to think they’re a detective.

In “Foxcatcher,” John du Pont (Steve Carell) is an eccentric millionaire whose life goal is to restore America to its old ways. His plan for this is to build an Olympic wrestling training facility on his family’s grounds in order to achieve it. He invites Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and his brother Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) to the compound in order to cultivate a team and bring gold back to the U.S. Du Pont starts to become unhinged during the training, becoming violent and killing Dave in a fit of rage.

Much has been made of Carell’s performance of Du Pont, which is equal parts frightening and uncomfortably funny at moments, but the real standouts of the picture are Tatum and Ruffalo as the Schultz brothers. People tend to remember more flashy moments in a film, like Carell’s prosthetic nose. But more subtle and nuanced performances, like as Tatum and Ruffalo’s, will linger in your mind. Tatum is known for playing his dim witted, but lovable meatheads, and although Mark Schultz is that, there is an insecure attitude in his character that makes him feel compelling and understandable.

So you have a quintessential true crime story with “Foxcatcher,” Along with complex characters, interesting settings and a conclusion that asks you why this happened. As exciting and dramatic as the events unfold, the film still falls flat in ways that “Serial” does in that there is no floor to the story. The buildup captivates the audience, but it meanders to an ending that feels anticlimactic.

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