In mixed martial arts lingo, a takedown is when one combatant forces the other to the ground, usually with the intention of raining punches on him or putting him in a submission hold. In journalism parlance, a takedown is a negative story designed to hurt a person’s reputation when they’ve become too big for their britches.
So it’s a little ironic that Takedown: The DNA of GSP is about as gentle a documentary as you’re ever likely to see, playing almost like a super-slick infomercial for Georges St-Pierre, the Quebec-born former UFC welterweight champion who is arguably the most famous figure in the sport.
Opening in select markets Thursday, Takedown looks at St-Pierre’s rise as a mixed martial arts superstar over the past decade or so, from a poor kid from Saint-Isidore, Que., to his much-hyped title fight against Nick Diaz last March.
By all accounts, St-Pierre is a hardworking and genuinely nice guy, and Montreal-based filmmakers Kristian Manchester and Peter Svatek had extensive access to his trainers, parents, UFC president Dana White and commentator Joe Rogan, and various other familiar faces.
Takedown also looks at the knee injury that sidelined St-Pierre for the better part of a year, and his determination to recover and re-enter the octagon. And the UFC fights themselves are intense, dramatic and sometimes even hard to watch. This is the one place Takedown literally pulls no punches, as we see St-Pierre drenched in blood – much of it his opponent’s – after a match.
But there’s nothing contentious – and probably nothing too surprising for UFC fans – in Takedown. St-Pierre does talk about being bullied as a kid and makes passing mention to having obsessive-compulsive disorder (although it’s not clear if he just means he’s got weird habits or if he actually struggles with OCD), but for a movie that sees so much blood spilled, Takedown is oddly toothless.
Maybe it’s silly to expect a documentary made with the full cooperation of St-Pierre and the UFC would cast either in a negative light, but it would be much more compelling to delve a little further into St-Pierre’s psyche, rather than having animated sequences that quote martial arts philosophers and compare St.-Pierre to a lone alpha wolf.
As St-Pierre’s climactic bout with the trash-talking Diaz drew nearer, I found myself wishing there was a documentary about the now-retired Diaz instead. Nasty, disrespectful and full of bluster, he’s a more interesting character than his clean-cut Canadian counterpart.
That said, Takedown is an entertaining and generally interesting glimpse into St-Pierre’s rise to the top of this sometimes misunderstood sport. The timing seems odd – St-Pierre is currently on a hiatus from fighting after he notched a split-decision win against Johny Hendricks in November, and the next time he’s seen by millions of fans will likely be in his role as Batroc the Leaper in April’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier – but chances are he’ll be back. Because you can’t keep a good man down.
The documentary screens in select Canadian cities February 20th, 22nd and 24th.