No one documentary could ever really encompass all that's fascinating and distressing about boxing as a kingmaking sport, a violent cultural phenomenal and a shady business. The slickly made "Champs" certainly tries, with varied success.
Writer-producer-director Bert Marcus trains his sights on the up-and-down careers of Mike Tyson (also a producer), Evander Holyfield and Bernard Hopkins — all of whom are interviewed — as a way of working through how boxing provides hopeful escape and a sense of achievement for hard-luck kids from tough neighborhoods but underprepares them for fame, fortune and aging.
The personal stories told through memorable bouts — Holyfield's stolen Olympic glory turned career-boosting moment, Tyson's downfall, Hopkins' transformation from inmate to titleholder — are the movie's most gripping sequences, even if the use of slo-mo re-creations is overdone.
The lessons-learned elements, however, are more chaotically presented between the river of stats about incarceration, the generalized complaints about unscrupulous hangers-on (without ever naming names) and the laments about lack of federal regulation to protect boxers.
"Champs" is all over the place and at times too polished for its own good — too many celebrity fan testimonials when more insider insights would have helped. But it comes from a place of caring for an oft-maligned sport.
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood.