Slaying the Badger

Slaying the Badger ★★★½

This isn't a great documentary from a technical perspective, nor is it an accessible film for outsiders. But there is something enchanting about a treacherous intra-team slugfest that's the calm before the storm of the paradigm-shifting doping era of cycling.

John Dower's direction crafts a chaotic first act that does little to coherently lay the groundwork for the meat of the film. It's an almost fatal blow--but those willing to stick with it are rewarded with well-edited sequences that not only logistically lay out the stakes of each stage of the world famous Tour de France but also try to keep up with each of the main players both then and now. Sure, Dower never bothers to dig deep into either athletes' motivations or personality, but it doesn't keep the main plotline from being any less compelling.

In the end, Slaying the Badger is an age-old tale of integrity in sports, where Machiavellian ethics butt up against the unwritten rule of teammate loyalty. And then in the end, none of it matters because there's a new wave of athlete willing to blow past any ethical qualms to reach inhuman levels of performance. As much as a monster as Bernard Hinault was, he at least got there on his own accord. That's more than Lance Armstrong could ever claim as he vaulted to record wins that would ultimately be wiped from the record books when the truth came to light. And that's where Dower's ode to a golden age of rivalry shines brightest: A man is only worth as much as his character, and an athlete is but a single man on the playing field.

Block or Report