Screwball is the unbelievably true story of how a petty dispute between two petty criminals brought down the world’s highest-paid baseball player. Director Billy Corben, the outstanding documentarian of Cocaine Cowboys and six other features, illuminates the shady worlds of South Florida’s steroid scene and Major League Baseball’s complicated relationship with performance-enhancing drugs. The film oozes style and will keep you entranced and baffled at how a cast of colourful characters brazenly break the law, profit from it, and then openly tell their stories on camera.
Inspired by the book Blood Sport: A-Rod and the Quest to End Baseball’s Steroid Era by Tim Elfrink, a Miami New Times journalist, this documentary tells the story of two conmen who, with the help or hindrance of a cast of eccentric characters, shook Major League Baseball (MLB) to its core a few years ago. Anthony Bosch, the film’s subject, colorfully narrates the founding and success of his steroid-dealing business called Biogenesis. “Doctor” Bosch, who completed a medical degree in Belize but was never licensed as a physician by the state of Florida, dispensed performance-enhancing drugs to police, teenagers wishing to gain an advantage in sports scholarship competitions, and professional athletes – most notably, Alex Rodriguez.
Bosch devised a regimen where the use of performance-enhancing drugs could go undetected in steroid tests. Despite a couple hiccups when his clients deviated from the protocol, his illicit business thrived without intervention from law enforcement. It was only when Bosch conned Porter Fischer – the documentary’s secondary subject – out of four thousand dollars, that his actions hit the media, captured national attention, and resulted in MLB suspensions for Alex Rodriguez and other top baseball players.
Corben’s documentary describes a South Florida scene where shady steroid dealers, fake doctors, and tanning salons cater to people who seek anti-aging remedies. The filmmakers brilliantly depict these eccentric conmen as children in re-enactments that directly hit the mark. The type of crime being committed is relatively minor and childish, and the criminals who are interviewed tell their stories with a childlike openness. The main interview subjects – Bosch and Fisher – have their stories corroborated by Elfrink and an ESPN reporter who also covered the story. Perhaps most gripping of all is Jerome Hill, a cop with a checkered past who was reassigned to the Department of Health and attempted to bring Bosch, Fisher, and their cronies to justice despite apathy from the state government. While Bosch eventually serves some jail time, the compensation he received from MLB in helping their case against A-Rod is a stark example of a conman profiting from their crime.
For the rest of the story and an electrifying documentary you’ll have to see to believe, be sure to check out Screwball.