Bigger, Stronger, Faster* (2008) ***1/2

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1hr 45min
Director: Chris Bell
Stars: Chris Bell, Mark Bell, Mike Bell
Genre: Documentary
Language: English

Let’s Get Physical — Or Not!

In a Nutshell

Plot

Straight as an Arrow
Twisty

Sound Quality

Easy to Hear
Incomprehensible

Who's That?

Few Main Characters
Lots

Naughty Words

Mild
Foul

Naked people

None
Lots

Violence

Tame
Bloody

With Indy frantically searching for the crystal skull and those four gorgeous gals looking for love in all those glamorous places in NYC, I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly pumped to be reviewing a documentary on the use of steroids in America. But after seeing Bigger, Stronger, Faster I can tell you, I was a bit juiced!

A documentary should entertain as well as inform, and this one certainly does both. Chris Bell who directed and co-wrote it with Alexander Buono documents the use of performance enhancing drugs from as far back as the 1950s through today. The entertainment comes from the story of a family and how steroid use has impacted each member of that family. The family just happens to be Chris Bell’s! Chris and his two brothers, Mark and Mike all took steroids at various times in their lives. Their trials and tribulations with these drugs is a microcosm for America’s addiction to steroids.

Chris, Mark and Mike grew up in Poughkeepsie, N. Y. in the 1970s. They all revered Arnold Schwarzenegger and how he was achieving the American dream. The boys looked at weight lifting and playing football as their vehicles to success. They fervently believed that hard work and a clean life (as Arnold preached) would garner them fame and wealth. Somewhere along that road things went awry. Chris stopped taking steroids in high school. He realized he was cheating to win and more importantly, he was cheating himself. Mark and Mike couldn’t stop — the euphoria of winning and winning at any cost were too great. Using performance enhancers became the only way for them to compete.

With that revelation Chris went on a mission — a mission to understand why steroid use was so rampant in America and in his own family. Throughout the film Chris interviews his brothers at various stages in their lives. Their insights into the reasons for their drug use are fascinating. They used steroids to be bigger, stronger and faster — to win! Their regard for their health was never a concern. Chris interviews his mom and dad as well. His talks with his mom, who believes she was lacking somehow in rearing her sons is heart wrenching.

While the family saga unfolds, scenes of Sylvester Stallone, Barry Bonds, José Canseco and many other steroid users serve as historical background to the growth of steroid use in America. A significant portion of the film is devoted to the senate hearings on steroid use in baseball. Former and present all-stars not only refuse to answer questions concerning their steroid use, but in the case of Raphael Palermo, flat out lie about using drugs. These are the faces of fallen idols that have shattered the American dream.

The information on performance enhancing substances is presented in easy to understand and often times amusing scenes throughout the film. There are interviews with various doctors, psychologists and drug manufacturers. Their opinions on these drugs, both positive and negative are engrossing. Bell doesn’t preach to us as Michael Moore does in his documentaries. He presents questions which require us think about our stance on steroids. He asks why Tiger Wood’s LASIK surgery which gave him near perfect vision is not considered performance enhancing, or why when musicians take beta-blockers to overcome performance anxiety, that is not considered performance enhancing.

Does Chris Bell succeed in his mission? You’ll have to answer that for yourself. What we walk away with is the knowledge that steroid use in this country is an epidemic which isn’t going away, an epidemic which is rooted in that part of the American dream which says — “Just win baby,” and that’s a big problem!

A former teacher of English Literature, Paul J. Cassese taught in the NYC school system for more than thirty years. Paul enjoyed taking the wonderful film courses of Richard Brown and Scott Siegel, and is excited about his new role as an online film reviewer. Going to the movies has been a passion of Paul’s since boyhood. Paul thanks his dad for passing that on to him.

Comments

karen said on June 3, 2008

 

I had read about this film, but didn’t think I’d see it. This review has perked my interest. Thanks for the insight and for a website I enjoy reading.

don friedman said on June 3, 2008

 

Paul writes like Shakespeare. A wonderful review! Written in simple language for anyone to understand.

Viktor said on December 2, 2012

 

I have seen many people using sidotres for building muscle size and muscle group. I would like to give them a advice.concerning, the best place to inject steroids. A lot of individuals fear needles and try to avoid injectable steroids, but it is the best method to take these due to the fact that injecting it to a big muscle group makes it so that much less toxins are directed through the liver. Also, people tend to not forget about taking their dose simply because they know they need to inject themselves while a pill is simple to forget to take.You should NEVER inject virtually any oil based steroids into your own veins as it can be extremely unhealthy. The best location to inject steroids is in your Gluteus Medius Meaning the top correct side of your right buttock! Appreciate Body building without having any issue.

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