Uneven 'Champs' goes distance with Mike Tyson, other fighters

'Champs' uses careers of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Bernard Hopkins to examine boxing

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.

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