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Jefferson Root Written by Jefferson Root
Oct. 21, 2011 | 10:53 AM

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There’s a great movie to be made about two brothers, each with a dominating, yet distinct fighting style, as they rise to the top and struggle with the public’s desire to see them fight against each other.  Unfortunately, Klitschko is not that movie, and it could be argued that last month’s WARRIOR already filled that niche.  Instead, KLITSCHKO takes a fascinating story and bogs it down with static talking head interviews that will likely fail to resonate with any but the most avid boxing fan.

The story of Wladimir and Vitali Klitshcko should sell itself, but director Sebastian Dernhardt relies too heavily on peripheral players to tell the story, instead of turning to the brothers themselves.  Born in the Ukraine to a Soviet army officer, Vitali was tasked with looking after his younger brother from a very early age.  Eventually the inevitable scrapes and tussles of childhood revealed that the two brothers had a knack for boxing.  Following the Chernobyl disaster, the family relocated to Germany, where the brothers became involved with an amateur boxing league.  After winning the gold medal for Ukraine at the 1996 Olympics, Wladmimir quickly turned pro, with Vitali soon to follow.

The film features interviews with a number of the Klitschkos opponents in the ring, including former heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis.  All speak of both brothers with tremendous respect, and we’re left with little doubt that the Klitschkos have earned their place among boxing’s greats.  Perhaps this is due to translation issues, as the brothers are shown speaking Ukrainian, German and English at various points in the film, but Dernhardt seems strangely uninterested in exploring what makes Wladimir and Vitali tick.  This is especially vexing since by all accounts, the Klitschkos both have intelligence to match their power in the ring.  We’re given a small glimpse of this in the film’s latter third, as Vitali decides to run for a seat in the Ukrainian parliament, but Dernhardt devotes most of the film’s running time to boxing, and this sequence plays like an afterthought.

The film also suffers due to the current chaotic state of boxing itself.  Fighters are now forced to compete for championship belts in no less than five different organizations, which has divided fans’ attention and greatly reduced interest in the sport.  Aside from some shaky footage of the Klitschkos meeting with notorious promoter Don King, these issues are largely left unexamined. 

Devoted followers of boxing will doubtless enjoy parts of KLITSCHKO, if only for the fight footage and interviews with former champions.  For everyone else, KLITSCHKO will seem more like an overly long, mildly interesting curiosity.

KLITSCHKO opens Friday, October 21st at the Laemmle Sunset 5 Theatre in West Hollywood.  In English and German with English subtitles.

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