Rank review by Jettie Vanderveen

The audience for a movie completely devoted to telling the story of three bull-riders competing for the Professional Bull Riders World Championship is a pretty small one, right? Well, the people at Independent Film Channel thought differently when pitched the idea for Rankand decided to try to make the documentary work. In association with Netflix and Genius Entertainment, director John Hyams shows bull-riding in a light that finally puts facts behind all the perceptions of the sport. Taking just about every aspect of it and giving it camera time helps the film become more than just an ESPN special event, but become a documentary that informs and entertains.

The top three bull riders competing against each other are the born-again Christian Mike Lee, the drinking and cursing Justin McBride, and the Brazilian two-time PBR World Champion Adriano Moraes. The film shows how each of them goes through each day competing with their various styles (helmets, cowboy hats, leg-casts, etc.) and trying to make it to the eight-second mark. If they can do that, they can score the maximum amount of points. The winner at the end of the week-long competition in Las Vegas wins one-million dollars and the gold belt buckle. Also part of the festivities is the Stock Contractor of the Year Award. This goes to the stock contractor who brought the best bulls for the tournament.

The three main competitors are all so different that they seem almost like caricatures of themselves. Mike had no other angle to go on apparently, so the film-makers elaborated on the fact he's a Christian. Whether or not he is as "hard-core Christian" as he appears on screen can only be confirmed or denied by meeting the fellow, but all the clips in the movie show him praying and attending church events and- oh yeah- bull-riding. However, he is described as the bull-rider's bull-rider by Justin McBride, fellow competitor and sufferer of a broken leg. When the accident happened that caused his wound, Mike prayed over his leg at the hospital and showed nothing but compassion and support for his opponent.

Adriano Moraes is a Brazilian bull-rider who won the World Championship two years prior. In a short segment, he goes through all his wounds and shows every scar that is associated with riding bulls (hooves crushing him, horns puncturing him, and various other scrapes and bruises. In the tournament, he tears muscles, but keeps on going. You can tell he loves the sport and appreciates his challengers. He knows that they all have a common enemy, the bull, so takes no aggression towards the other riders. He is definitely seen as the father-type figure who knows all the tricks, but may be past his prime.

Justin McBride is the kind of fellow you would think of straight off the bat when told you would be watching a film about bull-riding. He's a true Texan, drinking, playing country music on his guitar, and hunting is all he does when he's not ranching or riding. He has a southern twang that just screams Texas and rides bulls because his father and grandfather both did. He drinks Bud Light constantly throughout the film, whenever he's not on a bull that is (don't drink and ride, kids!) and curses season his speech. He's a young-gun, only 21, but it's apparent that he's the crowd's favorite. He gets the most camera time, and more of his home-life is shown than the other two.

The one thing that stands out in this film is the music. It would have been easy to just tune-in to CMT and pick the hottest country hits to throw into the film, but they didn't do that! Unseen Hand did all the music and is nothing but beautiful piano music that gives the movie a classical-sounding soundtrack. It brings so much more emotion to the entire sport, which even non-enthusiasts can get at least a little bit interested in the game. Even people who are by no means bull-rider fans, nor rodeo fans or anything of the sort can find themselves holding their breath, counting the seconds in their head when the next rider goes up.

There will be no spoilers here, only a precaution. The ending switches thing up a little, showing the least expected rider winning, and showing a seemingly sportsman-like fellow turn into an all-around bad-sport, saying that when he gets home he's going to "try to kill the shit out of everything in sight probably drink a bunch of beer every day. And that's all I'm going to do (during the few weeks before the next competition)."

All around, Rank is a pretty good documentary. It is very informative and shows bull-riding in a while new light. Instead of just "oh that red-neck sport like Nascar," they show all the trials, dangers, excitement, and heartache associated with any sport. It takes all the automatic judgments about bull-riding and throws them to the wind, starting from scratch with only facts and real stories, which is how all documentaries should work, really.


7 out of 10 Jackasses
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