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Sunday, May 13, 2012

MMA Documentary Movie Review – Jens Pulver: Driven

Jens Pulver is a former mixed matial arts (MMA) fighting champion trying to hang onto his career. He is a family man, has bills to pay, and wants to keep on fighting.

“Jens Pulver: Driven” is not a film about the violence in the ring. If you are looking for a blood and guts MMA documentary, you won’t find it here. This movie is more about Jens Pulver the human being, rather than Jens Pulver the fighter.

At first, I liked that this was not some head bashing romp. It is a very human documentary that even those who detest the MMA might have enjoyed. A man comes, tragically, from a broken home, an abusive father, a beaten mother and manages to find guidance and discipline through sports. The problem is it’s the same story we’ve heard before. I’m not taking anything away from Pulver when I say this. He endured a lot as a child and deserves to have his tale told. The story just isn’t fresh.
Victims of abuse might find inspiration in “Driven” though I say that with caution. Pulver’s rise from hardship, while heroic, isn’t the path for everyone. To suggest that the abused are somehow equipped for violent careers might not be the best message. The message to be taken here is that by all accounts, Pulver seems to be a kind and responsible man now (albeit one who breaks heads for a living) in spite of his difficult childhood.

MMA fans might be a little disappointed too. There is a lot, I repeat a lot, of training that goes on in this film but it is presented a little too blandly by the filmmakers. Training comes across as not too difficult. Punch some bags, spar (poorly from what I saw) and do a bunch lectures and rest in between and I guess you’re ready for a big time fight? I know it is harder than this and a good filmmaker would have captured the grittier elements of training.

By the way, Pulver shows up to the match 8 pounds overweight and has to ‘cut’ the weight before fight time with steam baths and exercise. Couldn’t they have at least given him a scale a week prior to the match? How is it this could have happened? The film could have explained this more.

The final bout is a disappointment. Not because of the outcome but rather you don’t even get to see it. It is like watching Rocky train for weeks then the fight comes and you don’t get to see it.

So much is left out in this documentary. What happens to Pulver after the final fight, why do fighters show up overweight for fights, what other training besides punching bags do fighters do, what happened to Pulver’s father or his beloved mother? I could go on. I am impressed with Jens Pulver and even admire him. The film leaves him out to dry. He has to carry the whole documentary a heartfelt story we’ve heard before. Good producing and directing would have helped. 
Final note… see the film “Warrior” instead. Not a true story but very similar to “Driven”

Another Review By TurtleDog

There are other true fight films out there you might want to watch. Check out my review of "Knuckle"

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