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John Hyams' documentary about bull riders focuses on three contenders in the 2004 PBR (Professional Bull Riders, Inc.) World Finals in Las Vegas, where 45 top-ranked riders compete in a seven-day event, taking on a different bull each day in hopes of winning a cool million dollars. They're expected to ride for eight seconds and are judged on the length and...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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John Hyams' documentary about bull riders focuses on three contenders in the 2004 PBR (Professional Bull Riders, Inc.) World Finals in Las Vegas, where 45 top-ranked riders compete in a seven-day event, taking on a different bull each day in hopes of winning a cool million dollars. They're expected to ride for eight seconds and are judged on the length and form of the ride, as well as the quality of the bull; bucking bulls are raised by specialized ranchers and bred for speed, agility and orneriness. The top-ranked competitor is two-time world-title winner Adriano Moraes, who enters the finals with one of the largest leads in PBR history. At 34, Moraes, who grew up poor on a Brazilian ranch and lives in Keller, Texas, is also one of the oldest riders in a notoriously brutal sport: "In bull-riding, it's not a matter of if you get hurt," says the doctor who's treating second-ranked entrant Justin McBride. "It's a matter of when." For McBride, 25, of Elk City, Oklahoma, bull-riding is a family tradition, if not an entirely happy one — his grandfather died in competition. "Bad business, bull-ridin'," says his grandma soberly, though she tried her hand and has the photos to prove it. McBride enters in second place, but is competing on an ankle held together with screws and a custom-made brace; he's gone to the finals twice before and been forced out by injury both times. The difference between riding broncos and bulls, says Moraes, is that once a horse bucks you off it leaves you alone — bulls come after you and it’s the job of four-man teams (who used to dress as clowns but now affect a less demeaning look) to draw them away from fallen riders. God-fearing, 21-year-old Mike Lee, whose chaps are decorated with crosses and religious slogans, is third-ranked and the youngest; he's from tiny Paradise, Texas, characterizes himself as "not a really smart kind of guy," and has already cracked his skull and permanently damaged his sight. It's hard to tell whether Hyams' subjects are exceptionally nice guys or whether there's an excess of decency on the PBR circuit (bull breeder Dillon Page suggests as much, opining that they're all real cowboys and that cowboys stick together even when they're in direct competition), but if even one were more conspicuously flawed, the film might be more compelling.

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: John Hyams' documentary about bull riders focuses on three contenders in the 2004 PBR (Professional Bull Riders, Inc.) World Finals in Las Vegas, where 45 top-ranked riders compete in a seven-day event, taking on a different bull each day in hopes of winni… (more)

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