By ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun
On the surface, Hitman Hart, Wrestling With Shadows chronicles Bret
Hart's bitter and ugly dispute with Vince McMahon which eventually led to the
wrestler's divorce from McMahon's World Wrestling Federation.
But like the part-fact, part-fiction sports entertainment spectacle that is
pro wrestling, nothing is exactly as it seems.
This of course, is a big reason for the appeal of organizations such as the
WWF and Hart's new home, World Championship Wrestling.
Filmmaker Paul Jay and his crew followed Hart, once the heroic champion of
the WWF, for the better part of a year gaining an unprecedented and uncut look
at the behind the scenes world of the squared circle.
What originally began as a profile of Hart and his family turned ugly when
McMahon began to transform hero Hart into a hated villain. The resulting drama
created Hart's defection to the WWF rival and the telling of the story is an
eye opener into the big-money world of pro wrestling.
"We soon got caught up in the morality play of what wrestling really is,"
Jay said. "We had no idea the thing with (McMahon and the WWF) would unfold.
The morality play of good guys and bad guys started moving into real life. It
was not just theatre any more."
Wrestling With Shadows is not an expose shouting to a serious audience that
the sport is fake, because depending on the level at which its viewers digest
it, wrestling is very real.
Instead viewers are given subtle insight into how certain scenes are
scripted and just how talented the professional athletes/actors are.
And who better to provide perspective than Hart, his life itself a
fascinating story line? Hart's father Stu was a legend in Calgary, the founder
of Stampede Wrestling. His eight sons all became pro wrestlers, Bret being by
far the most famous, and four daughters married grapplers.
A behemoth that looks every bit the part of the super hero, the film shows
Hart has much more substance than a hulking frame. Throughout his life he has
grappled with his own demons, dealing with taunts as a child to a never-ending
quest for respect while in his current profession.
"People talk about wrestling not being real, it's far more real than people
think," Hart said. "It's not just people hitting each other over the heads
with chairs. To make the theatre work, the wrestling has to be very real.
"I've kicked people full blast in the face. Have you ever wondered why
there is no big bruise after that? There is an art to wrestling. But people
never come up to you and say you are a hell of an actor, you're just a phony
At age 40, Hart can't help but feel jaded about the game. He hated that
McMahon made him turn heel, a plot that started with Hart becoming an
anti-American but ended when he refused to add racist overtones to the
And when the WWF began slipping in rating wars to WCW, Hart despised the
new direction McMahon started to head.
"It's become smut TV," Hart says. "It's become very sexual in a bad way. I
don't think it's something presentable to your children."
Without giving away the story, the final 15 minutes of the film shows in
stark detail why the Hitman had no choice but to hit the road.
"I don't want to become this slimy bad guy wrestler just to appease Vince
McMahon and to sell tickets," Hart said. "You don't sell out really cheap.
I've learned it's not just a wrestling show."
Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows in the SLAM! Wrestling Movie Database
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