Saturday, May 26, 2018

[Review] Borg vs McEnroe

Borg vs McEnroe serves up exactly what the title suggests. It's an in-depth sports biopic as well as an intriguing character study that highlights the intense rivalry between pro tennis players Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.

Shia LaBeouf, fittingly, takes on the role of hothead American rising tennis star John McEnroe (when we first see him he's telling the crowd to "Shut the fuck up" mid-match), while Sverrir Gudnason plays the quiet, nearly emotionless (and almost boring) Swede Bjorn Borg, who lets his titles do all the talking. The film's timeline depicts the events leading up to their Wimbledon championship match, while including the match itself.

Borg and McEnroe obviously couldn't be any more different, and the film makes sure to draw attention to their contrasting personalities and lifestyles, as the non-linear narrative alternates back and forth between each of their childhoods as well as their day-to-day activities (curricular and extracurricular) in the present -- the quick-cut editing seems to mimic the effect of an actual volley. There's also a really interesting dynamic displayed between the two -- it's not so much of a blatant mutual respect as it is an obsessive fascination with each other. It's like they're annoyed by each other but can't look away. A "What is this guy's deal?" sort of thing. They genuinely want to know what makes the other one tick.

Given McEnroe's history of antics, and considering the peculiar and unhinged actor portraying him, you'd think the film's ball might drop into comedic territory at times, but it never really does. The tone is dead serious -- more Borg than McEnroe. And I think the film could've benefitted from loosening up a bit -- it probably would've wound up being more memorable that way. That said, Borg vs McEnroe is well-crafted enough to elevate itself above being "just another sports biopic", and LaBeouf's performance as McEnroe is still a commendable effort. He plays him with a solid sense of dedication, rather than settling on a gimmicky impression. He’s fully game.

In the end, the film attempts to reflect the spectacle back onto the spectators by posing the question: "Who am I, the gentleman or the rebel?"

( 7.5/10 )

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1 comment:

  1. Nice review here. I was wondering about this movie. Glad to hear that LaBeouf is good, I've always rooted for him as an actor.