Klitschko - SideReel Review
The subject matter of director Sebastian Dehnhardt’s documentary Klitschko -- brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, who have each captured the heavyweight-boxing crown at various times in their careers, yet refuse to face each other in the ring -- is more than interesting enough to make up for the fact that it breaks no new stylistic ground whatsoever.
Dehnhardt does a perfect job of capturing their spartan childhood growing up on a Soviet military base in the Ukraine, and being forced to deal with fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Vitali is a fantastic interview subject, able to share novelistic details about their early life while insisting that he would like to be known as more than just a boxer.
The director continually spotlights Vitali’s quest to become something more than a pugilist, and this throughline finds its conclusion in the most-startling passage of the film: footage of Vitali as a member of the Ukrainian senate getting into physical altercations with people trying to silence his attempts to expose corruption.
For his part, Wladimir is an excellent foil for his older brother. A man who obviously enjoys the perks of his success, he stays single while his older brother dotes faithfully on his wife and three children.
For two men who make their living in the most-brutal fashion possible, they prove to be rather philosophical about what they do. Both define themselves by their relationships with others -- family members, trainers, one another -- rather than by the adulation and success they’ve found in the ring. And their close friendship has made them controversial among most boxing enthusiasts, since they refuse to fight each other even though they both hold world titles. A fight between the two brothers would bring about a payday larger than either of them has ever known, but the great thing about this documentary is that you understand how much they care for each other and why their brotherly love will keep that dream matchup from ever becoming a reality. Because of this, Klitschko is a rare boxing tale that draws its power from the reasons why boxers won’t fight, rather than why they do.