I grew up in a small town - not in Florida, but in Pennsylvania - and mudding was also a big thing for so many people. I remember coming home one Thanksgiving from college and took multiple trucks out into the freezing woods, chasing one another until we flipped and were submerged in the chilly, muddy waters. After walking a mile back to the road with icy filth clinging to every pore, I thought, "I have no interest in ever doing that again."
Matthew Burns has raised his family amongst the monster trucks. There's a scene in the beginning of the film that's astounding, as they show images of his daughters growing up, almost always covered in mud.
There's a tendency in the intelligent left - and I'm sure both sides of the aisle - to write off rural and redneck Americans. Or, more often, make fun of their ways and even worse, co-opt them for pop culture.
Instead, I invite you to watch this film free of any prejudices. That said, some of the moments, like the Redneck Yacht Club and the way women are treated as objects, are difficult to watch through any lens. There's also a moment where one interview subject suggests that if we all stopped talking about racism, it would go away. Sadly, this is a statement I have heard echoed so many times.
In the shadow of the happiest place on Earth, this is the life that exists around the clean facades, a world where the "theys" and "people in power" are constantly taking songs off the radio and pushing their agenda on the little man.
As the mudholes close in this film and a way of life changes, I sit here meditating on how the world is going to keep changing and not for the better. I really try and stay away from politics, but I'm kind of upset this morning about a negative email interaction with a director. This movie has made me think of the small people caught up in the gears of the bullet point media coverage from both sides as I think of these mudders, out and trying to find a new place in the woods and stuck watching videos of their old trucks and thinking, "Where did the good old days go?"
Have you ever wondered when things are so bad that for some, this period of time will be their good old days?
The long and short of it is that there's mud and smoke and fireworks that draw you into this film, but the real story is the human drama of Matthew's family falling apart and his life getting sadder as all he does is work, scrapping and taking the garbage of people a level above him in caste and trying to get all the money that he can from it. This film is awash in tragedy and pathos and regrets when on the surface it only feels like it's going to be about good old boys tearing it up.
This movie may make you happy. Or angry. Or just sad. But that said, it does what a movie should. It makes you think.