Published May 04, 2009Stanless Steel is like many men approaching middle age: he worries about his competitors at work and struggles to maintain a long-term relationship with his partner. The only difference is that Stanless leg-presses 10,000-pound dump trucks for a living.
Director Zachary Levy filmed strongman Stanless Steel of New Jersey over three years before arriving at this absorbing profile of a good but imperfect soul who bends steel for money. Stanless can also lift three women with one finger and drive nails through boards with his bare hands. He performs in America and abroad, in person and on TV.
A muscular, rotund man who resembles a lean Olympic weightlifter, Stanless has accumulated 50 amazing stunts. Sure, he conditions his body but Stanless also trains his mind to think positively and to focus entirely on one thing. Stanless is an optimist. However, being a strongman is an unpredictable profession and he relies on his day job as a scrap metal dealer to pay his bills, and on his girlfriend, Barb, to keep him on an even keel. Barb not only provides stability but introduces him at countless shows. Otherwise, Stanless may have ended up like his aimless, alcoholic brother.
Strongman is shot in a strict verité style that suits this film. Levy's documentary can be slow in places, and at 113 minutes cries for some judicious editing. The movie will try the patience of some viewers. However, Stanless's physical presence and positive outlook carry the film.
Stanless is articulate and engaging. His troubles, like his quarrels with Barb, who criticizes him for being cold and distant, are ordinary, so anyone can identify with him. Like a good stunt performer, Strongman is a crowd pleaser first and foremost.