There was a moment, back in the dark ages, when “60 Minutes” cut to the chase at the climax of decades and decades of science, reports, government ad bans and warnings about cigarettes.
Smoking, the evidence showed in a famous piece that aired there, constricts blood flow. And guess what, guys? It REALLY cuts blood flow to that place no guy wants his circulation restricted. Not talking about the heart here, fellas.
Such a moment is echoed in the new documentary from the director of “The Cove.” In a giggles and squirm-inducing scene in “The Game Changers,” noted urologist Robert Vogel sets three college athletes up with muscle, bloodflow and erection monitoring gear (don’t ask) to check on them as they sleep.
He was checking on the impact of a vegetarian diet on “masculinity,” in effect. And damned if the chap who cut meat out of his diet didn’t, um, WAY outperform his compatriots.
“The Game Changers” is about the myths of vegetarianism and strength, stamina, longevity and yes, sexual performance. The host and narrator of the film, hand-to-hand combat coach and UFC fighter James Wilks leads us (with director Louie Psihoyos in tow) across America and around the world, finding athletes and ex-athletes, researchers and doctors by the score, making the argument that our meat-mania is mainly just marketing.
If you want to improve your health, increase your strength and oh, save the planet while you’re at it, eat your vegetables, kids.
Wilks introduces us to UFC fighters and weightlifters, sprinters and hyper-marathoners, all improving performance and recovery time from injuries by sticking to a diet rich in vegetables and carbohydrates.
We’re shown, in the bluntest terms possible, how a single animal-based meal can foul the blood with animal fat and restrict blood flow.
Myth after myth is busted. Animal proteins vs. plant ones are broken down, scientifically, and the idea that “meat makes you stronger” is taken apart at the atomic level.
Soy foods “dose you with estrogen?” Nope.
Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s line from “Escape Plan,” “You hit like a VEGETARIAN” is repeated, and then we from The Man Himself about his discovery (post health and heart problems) of a plant-based diet.
Weight lifter Patrik Baboumian, who might be the world’s strongest human, does his Feats of Strength on a plant diet.
Big Meat’s assault on harsh, widely-accepted global scientific truths is exposed as being driven by some of the same people and the same PR firm that defended Big Tobacco for half a century, the kings of the “Sow doubt” school of public opinion.
The film wanders quite a bit, getting all these people in, showing Wilks’ own conversion story, cherry picking which fight between vegan Nate Diaz and meat-chomping thug Conor McGregor to report on (they fought twice, and split).
The big arguments are solidly backed up even if there is a hint of “new convert’s zeal” to the proceedings. Yes, cattle and pigs consume land, feed and water and cripple the planet at every stage of production and consumption. Yes, people who eat meat tend to get more diseases and die younger.
It probably won’t convert a lot of folks, even if “The Game Changers” makes it on CNN. But those it does reach will have the last laugh, on their way home from the funerals of the Big Mac or Bust believers.
MPAA Rating: Unrated, adult subject matter, some profanity
Cast: James Wilks, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Patrik Baboumian, Morgan Mitchell, Scott Turek, Lucius Smith
Credits: Directed by Louie Psihoyos, script by Shannon Kornelson, Mark Monroe and Joseph Pace. A Refuel release.
Running time: 1:27