Success at any cost
The Untold series has been a bit hit or miss as of late, with stories ranging from biased and skewed in one direction (Jake Paul) to frustratingly mediocre. Thankfully, Hall of Shame bucks that trend. Interesting, balanced and packed full of revealing interviews, Untold’s latest film sheds light on the BALCO scandal that seismically changed the sports world forever.
Between 1988 and 2002, Victor Conte spearheaded an operation that saw different athletes involved in a scandal whereby they used banned, performance-enhancing substances to smash records and rise to the top of their respective sport fields. All of this builds toward “Operation World Record” with sprinter Tim Montgomery and the fall-out from that.
The latter parts of the film eventually moves into the territory of the scandal itself becoming public knowledge and the impact that had on the sports world – and Victor Conte’s “prison sentence”. I say prison sentence because the man basically served 4 months behind bars for his part to play in all this.
The documentary’s narrative plays out like a cat and mouse chase for the majority of the run-time, with the perspective shifting from Victor Conte and his associates, over to investigators sifting through rubbish and trying to bring Conte and co. down. The tone works well for the most part, and there’s some great interviews spliced together that work to bounce back and forth from this.
Regularly, we’ll hear a shocking revelation from one of the interviews, only for Victor Conte to pop up in a separate interview and deny any wrongdoing, spinning a different story instead. Another time, we see Victor Conte himself make statements, only for others to then chirp up and claim he’s lying. This plays into the narrative of him being a snake oil salesman, something the film alludes to several times. However, it also highlights the great editing that this film has to be able to pull this off in a compelling way.
This is an interesting story too and if you’re unaware of what happened during this time, Untold lifts the rug on this to reveal all the inner workings of the system. Seeing whiteboards full of meticulous planning for when and how the drugs are administered each day, or revisiting archived footage of sports with more context really helps add a layer of depth to this film.
If you’re unaware of this story, Untold: Hall of Shame is well worth a watch. The editing is good, the narrative is gripping and at only 1 hour and 15 minutes, the documentary never outstays its welcome either. This one hits a home-run.
Verdict - 7.5/10