Wrestling may be fake but 'Heels' is beautifully real - MrLiambi's blog


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Sunday 15 August 2021

Wrestling may be fake but 'Heels' is beautifully real

Imagine if your literal job was to throw your sibling across the room.

Professional wrestling may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's impossible to deny that it's conceptually fascinating. Grown men and women strap on spandex and participate in scripted, acrobatic fights to resolve character arcs that everyone knows are fake but become real through willful suspension of disbelief.

The concept of kayfabe, the commandment that requires those in the business to pretend that wrestling is real, is a uniquely human invention that should theoretically ensure that in-ring drama stays in the ring, but the human heart has never been great at distinguishing the performance of an emotion from the emotion itself. Heels, a new drama on Starz, is the story of what happens when some wrestlers don't even try to see the difference.

Heels is a Shakespearean tale of brother vs. brother that takes place both in and outside the ring of the Duffy Wrestling League, an independent promotion in a no-horse town in south Georgia. Jack Spade (Stephen Amell, Green Arrow) is the patriarch of the Spade family, a title that comes with ownership of the DWL as well as its performance venue the Dome. He is a wrestler and a heel, the industry term for a "bad guy" in the league.

His younger brother Ace (Alexander Ludwig, Vikings) is a face, a "good guy" who supplants his former role as the town's beloved high school quarterback with the adoration of his hero-loving fans. Their in-ring rivalry is a huge draw for the DWL, but the brothers' fights often bleed out into the real world, where they scrap over creative control, the direction of the DWL, and the legacy of their abusive father.

Both Amell and Ludwig are brilliantly cast, with the irony of a former DC superhero playing a guy who plays a bad guy adding a fun layer to Amell's performance. Ludwig's Ace is a big hot idiot whose focus on the social treats he earns just by being and looking like himself is a thin cover for his easily wounded, emotional interior. The rest of the cast is also great at portraying characters that first appear as a series of small-town southern stereotypes but quickly subvert expectations to become complex, watchable humans.

These characters include Kelli Berglund (Cherry) as Crystal, Ace's clever in-ring valet (an assistant-cheerleader combo) whose trailer park address all but ensures she'll be underestimated all her life, Chris Baur (True Blood) as Wild Bill Hancock, a famous wrestler with Duffy roots who is best described as a poetically gifted dirtbag of chaos in a cowboy hat, and Trey Tucker (What Lies Below) as Bobby Pin, a himbo so potent he doesn't know what the Vietnam War is and is still an irresistible romantic lead.

"Friday Night Lights, but make it wrestling" is a huge logline to live up to and Heels emerges triumphant from the comparison.

Heels borrows heavily from the deeply emotional sports show playbook established by one of the greatest dramas of the 21st century, Friday Night Lights. It borrows well in the case of its serious tone that still finds the humor in life's small moments, its respect for its characters beliefs and lifestyles, and its emphasis on the DWL as a found family for those who need it most. It borrows less well in some crunchy, obvious dialogue that could be unfavorably compared to the inspirational speeches of Coach Eric Taylor and, to use a more recent example, Ted Lasso. Monologues aside, "Friday Night Lights, but make it wrestling" is a huge logline to live up to and Heels emerges triumphant from the comparison.

The difficulty in making a show about wrestling as opposed to other sports lies in that wrestling is the only "sport" that relies on decades of carefully held trade secrets. Heels succeeds in making the in-ring action look absolutely incredible, held up by obvious training for the actors themselves, casting athletes (former Steelers quarterback James Harrison plays a wrestler called Apocalypse), hiring the occasional real life wrestler like CM Punk in a guest role, and excellently shot stunt work to hide the seams.

Even if someone watching Heels has never seen a wrestling match before, the action scenes are beautifully coordinated to showcase the best of in-ring storytelling and athleticism. They got suplexes, superplexes, guillotine drops, coast-to-coast knockouts, and if none of those make any sense, just know they look sick as hell on screen.

Heels is an ambitious show that aims to show the limitations of kayfabe in a world ruled by cruel reality. What the Spade brothers build together, wrestling move by wrestling move, is less a story for the crowd and more an attempt to rewrite their own lives and their roles in them. For a show that hinges on the action being fake, Heels is heartbreakingly real and deserves a chance to grow into its full glory.

Heels premieres on Starz Aug. 15.

Source : http://feeds.mashable.com/~r/Mashable/~3/84Qt5uy0-Bk/heels-review-starz

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