In terms of the overall quality of the film… I hate to be overly critical of low-budget independent productions because we at Film Threat are a massive supporter of that community. We encourage anyone and everyone who wants to make a movie to absolutely do so, no matter the challenges you’ll face. Sandow had many challenges, and I bring them up because you’re going to notice it right off the bat, and there’s no way to sugarcoat it.
The biggest problem with the film is the sound. It’s inconsistent and, at times, difficult to understand. I appreciate that writer/director Alexander Cooper tried to fix it, as best he could, in post-production, but there are scenes in which I could not hear the dialogue. I also found myself constantly playing with the volume. For an emerging filmmaker, this is a crucial issue to figure out. Audiences will forgive many flaws in a movie, but the sound isn’t one of them.
While I’m pointing out flaws, the acting, dialogue, and cinematography could have been better. Kervinen is only okay as Sandow, but at the same time, I imagine it’s not easy finding a bodybuilder who can win Oscars. The rest of the cast is good; notably, Tiffany-Ellen Robinson as Sandow’s frustrated and loving wife and projects like this are great for a working actor’s resume to get in the door at the big studios. In other words, the cast is a work-in-progress.
“…excellent costumes and sets.“
The dialogue struggles to feel natural, and the physical fights needed better choreography, but I also understand how expensive high-quality Hollywood stunt fighting can cost. Lastly, though the camera’s caught what it required to capture to tell the story, the director and the director of photography needed to find more exciting ways to shoot the action.
What Sandow gets right is presenting a film that looks and feels like it truly takes place over a hundred years ago — excellent costumes and sets. Sure, a larger budget would have made it look more authentic, but Cooper got a lot out of the production design with the resources he had. Maybe a bigger budget could have gotten the movie to Masterpiece Theater levels, but production-wise it’s pretty good.
In the end, Sandow falls just short of the recommendation level. The film’s low-budget problems stand out, but if you’re interested in history and little-known stories, this real-life tale may just make up for its weaknesses, as Sandow himself was the father of the modern fitness craze.
"…Sandow himself was the father of the modern fitness craze."