Pulling John (2009)

8 Dec

Ok, quit your giggling, despite its humorously euphemistic title, Pulling Johnis actually a great documentary that doesn’t take itself too seriously but is still pretty entertaining on a subject that I never thought I would even be remotely interested in before: arm wrestling. Seriously. In addition to the fact that my scrawny stick arms would never get me through one round of arm wrestling, I am turned off in general by physical challenges of strength, even if I am not the one participating. Nonetheless, I found myself sitting rather enthralled through this documentary on an aging arm wrestling great, John Brzenk, and two up-and-coming competitors: Russian human steam-engine Alexey Voevoda, and Travis Bagent of West Virginia.

Alexey Voevoda

This documentary was very reminiscent of King of Kong in that it took its cast of quirky characters and really got us to…pull for them. Heh. With four years of footage and coverage under their belts, filmmakers Vassiliki Khonsari and Sevan Matossian make surprisingly in-depth profiles on Brzenk, Voevoda and Bagent. As most sports films go, the film builds up to a huge competition at the end, where the stories of these three titans of arm wrestling meet up to compete for an international title. Pulling John compels the viewer to watch until the nail-biting conclusion of who will emerge victorious. Did I mention we’re talking about arm wrestling here?

Travis Bagent

See Pulling John, you will be happy you spent an hour and a half learning about the unfamiliar world of arm wrestling (unless you are an enthusiast of Over the Top, starring Sly Stallone, in which case you will probably love this documentary even more). I give it an A.

I leave you with the clip that I found the funniest in the movie. I am sorry for the poor/choppy quality, but it is the only public domain footage I could find with this scene. Perhaps funnier in context, also check out the trailer here.


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