Before you dismiss this as something you aren’t interested in, hear me out… If you’ve ever known someone who struggled with addiction, abuse, or self-hatred, this film is for you.
For me, the story of this film begins 15 years ago when I sat down in a movie theater to watch the much-talked-about documentary Beyond the Mat. The film followed several professional wrestlers and showed their lives – you guessed it – beyond the mat. Perhaps the most talked about subject of the film was Jake “the Snake” Roberts, a man who had been one of the most feared and respected practitioners in the business at the height of his career. When the film was made, however, Jake was deep into a heart-breaking downward spiral; a shell of a man who couldn’t hold his body, his mind, or his life together.
The Resurrection of Jake the Snake picks up 13 years later as former world champion Diamond Dallas Page and filmmaker Steve Yu respond to Jake’s cry for help to change his life. Now, changing lives is nothing new to Page who had previously helped disabled Gulf War veteran Arthur Boorman transform his body and his life through DDP’s custom yoga program (the aptly-titled DDP Yoga). So, Dallas compels his former mentor to move in with him for a course of rehab and personal training in hopes of Jake earning back the life he’s lost, including his family.
About halfway through the adventure, the “accountability crib” welcomes an additional resident, “The Bad Guy” Scott Hall (aka Razor Ramon). By some accounts, at least at the time, Hall’s state was even worse than Jake’s. With Scott’s move in, we get to see Jake transition somewhat from purely receiving to passing on a bit of the help that he has already been graced with. While I don’t want to spoil the ending, it’s easy to find yourself choked up just like the characters on the screen are as they achieve a measure of personal validation they felt would never come.
So, I have to tell you, this film is fantastically well made. Much of the filming is better than a number of the documentaries that I’ve seen (and reviewed) in recent times. Even video clips that have clearly been recorded on inferior equipment are made to look good and rarely break the flow of the film. The filmmakers welcome the cameras into their world in a way that is truly immersive without feeling staged. Better than anything, though, is the willingness of the film’s chief subjects (Roberts, Page, and Hall) to be authentic and transparent with their emotions. Throughout the film we see genuine tears of both pain and joy – aspects that these men have had to bottle for much of their professional lives.
If I had one negative reaction to the film it would have to be the wealth of explicit language. My chief concern with this is that it inherently limits the audience who will be willing to view the film. While fans of the subjects will likely have no problem with this, it could be limiting to the wider viewing public.
This was a truly unique viewing experience for me, because I’ve been watching this whole story develop via social media and YouTube over the last two years in real-time. I took note when I heard that DDP was helping Jake. I watched along with many others as Scott Hall publicly embarrassed himself by making public appearances while intoxicated. And I really took notice when Page and Jake brought Hall into their program. In fact, the changes that these men made were so remarkable that it got me up and moving again – because if Jake and Scott could do it, so can I.
All that is well and good and it makes for a fantastic film that I can’t recommend highly enough. But beyond all that, what I’ve taken away from the experience is looking more closely at the example of Dallas Page. While many of us have friends who are hurting and in need, it’s far too easy to simply say a kind word and never take any action. That wasn’t good enough for DDP. He couldn’t sit idly by and let his friends suffer the same fate as so many others had done in their industry. He laid down his own life both socially, financially, and professionally to save his friends. That’s the kind of guy I want to be.
The film had its festival premiere Friday (Jan 23) and the filmmakers are currently shopping it for distribution. We’ll update you when we have more info on when and where you can see it.