Mirko Cro Cop’s Documentary: A Magical And Slightly Confusing Journey

A review of early MMA superstar Mirko "Cro Cop's" 2000s-era documentary.

Being on the internet isn’t always great.

It is on the internet, after all, that we get complete strangers telling us that we actually don’t know anything about the things that we know about. The internet is where Steven Crowder lives. It is on the internet that you get to find out that your face is assembled wrong, that teenagers no longer know about N’Sync, and that the cute barista you once lusted over isn’t a conspiracy theorist or anything but just thinks maybe Alex Jones got a lot of things right, you know?

And yet, the internet can also be a place of bonding. Of fortuitous, unexpected encounters. Of creativity. Of support, empathy and healing.

Of this:

That’s right. This documentary on PRIDE legend Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic is a thing that exists. And if you, like me, were unaware of that fact, the knowledge that you’ve been cohabiting a planet with it since the early 2000s probably won’t come without some shock, confusion and some suspicion. Could such beauty, you may wonder, possibly be real? Are there more quotes where these came from? How is it that we haven’t adopted the gospel of Cro Cop as our one and absolute truth? Can we, as a people, dare to dream?

I, too, grappled with such inquiries. And I knew I had to get to the bottom of it.

So I conducted an exhaustive investigation that consisted of looking at Twitter replies and clicking on a link. And it was all true, my friends. Not only did Cro Cop really gift us all these nuggets of wisdom, but he gave us a lot more on a 48-minute audiovisual masterpiece that seems to have somehow eluded widespread critical acclaim and the awards circuit.

As shown by the 97 unsophisticated fools who dared dislike the video, not everyone can appreciate art. But I know you can. And that’s why I decided to create a detailed account of my journey through the fun, action-packed, confusing world of this Croatian icon.

P.S: I don’t speak Croatian and therefore can’t verify the accuracy of the subtitles. Sometimes in this life, though, you just have to choose to believe in goodness. I made that choice today. Will you?

We are greeted by a guy wearing sunglasses in a sweatshirt, in what appears to be a rusty white van. He is apparently there to situate us, which he does by explaining that we’re about to see a shortened version of an hour and a half-long DVD and that some developments have happened since its filming — namely, that Cro Cop (“Our Mirko”) has beaten Bob Sapp.

For each question answered by the mysterious sunglass-ed man’s presence, however, others arise: Is he the director? The host? Just a friend of Cro Cop’s? Why is he wearing sunglasses? Why is he in a rusty van? Is it just so he can point to the little message on the door that says “Open only when the car has stopped?” If so, why? Why is this message relevant to this particular documentary?

Thankfully, there isn’t much time to indulge in such existential mysteries. Before we know it, we’re in Privlaka, where Cro Cop was born. Guys with (fake?) guns jump out of a truck as the crew enters the village, but the fact that we’re immediately transported to the first of many random black-and-white shots of a laughing Cro Cop indicates it was merely a joke. Why are these shots black and white? We don’t know. But it doesn’t matter. It’s all very majestic.

cro cop and pals

We’re now roasting a lamb and playing cards with Cro Cop and his friends — his “soul peace” — and he says something we don’t know because the person who’s writing the subtitles deemed it unimportant — hence the subtitle literally saying “nothing important (talking about working at saw mill).” No judgment, though. I have no idea how hard it is to subtitle Croatian. We appreciate you regardless, subtitle person, for allowing us to appreciate this masterpiece. Either way, what matters is the knowledge that Cro Cop used to create weight-lifting material out of concrete and pickle jars when he was a kid and that he ran every day on the railroad before going to school, in army boots, sometimes under snow.

At one point, we hear from a guy who’s casually sitting inside a wheelbarrow, because why wouldn’t he be? A wheelbarrow is honestly just a chair that you can move around, really, when you think about it.

This is also when we get one of the key moments of the whole endeavor (and it’s not young Cro Cop running in tiny gym shorts, though that is also important): We discover that Cro Cop used to rip through several punchings bags and practice his kicks on a concrete wall. Apparently, the kicks were so intense that they made the structure vibrate, which I choose to believe looked just like in that Kickboxer scene with Tong Po. The kicks also poked holes through the bricks on the wall. Cro Cop is modest about it, however, and explains that anyone could drill holes on a wall with their kicks if they did it persistently and accurately enough. The trick apparently is to always kick the same spot, if anyone is on the market for information on how to kick holes on concrete walls.

cro cop stripping

We’re then introduced to a segment that really sets the tone of our journey and also produces some of the greatest quotes in the history of humankind. Throughout the documentary, Cro Cop reacts to some words or concepts, kind of like in an association game. Off the bat, we get gems such as:

On fear: “I’m afraid of snakes, aggressive girls and loose dogs over 60 kilograms.”

On vegetables: “I never tasted that in my life. Cucumber, tomato, especially something sour, green peppers and stuff, not even dead. Green lettuce, nothing. I’d rather die than taste vegetables.”

On sex: “Necessarily evil, I ain’t a fan of it.”

We then get to see Cro Cop hanging out with his mom. He tells some story about playing with makeshift wooden ninja swords in a cornfield and getting his ass whooped so bad by her that he was dizzy for two months. That would probably be a noteworthy moment in any other movie, but this one just has too many of them. Especially considering it segues into Cro Cop’s discovery of Jean-Claude Van Damme through Bloodsport, and how seeing “his moves, looks” influenced him to drop his other athletic endeavors and follow on Van Damme’s fighting footsteps. The brilliancy of whoever is behind the camera is evidenced when he asks whether Cro Cop could beat Van Damme in a fight. Perhaps due to lack of clarity in the subtitles, or perhaps due to my own intellectual limitations, I don’t understand his answer — but I do understand this moment is beautiful, precious and should be cherished forever.

cro cop blood sport

Also, there’s what seems to be young Cro Cop doing a full split.

From there we go into Cro Cop’s actual training at the gym, which is beautiful in its own right. It is, after all, when we’re reminded that “right leg is hospital, left is cemetery.” It’s also when we get a training montage, which is what we’re here for. We see Crop Cop hitting mitts and grappling, but most importantly we get his answer when he’s asked whether he cries, maybe during a movie.

“I cried when I was watching Rambo I. When they put him in jail, it wasn’t cool. The man didn’t do anything, so that drew a tear to my eye. The sheriff started it first. I hate mistreatment. Peace, freedom and democracy for all. I would like to meet that sheriff which put Rambo in jail. He wouldn’t be a thug then for long.”

It’s not all fun, games and cries for criminal justice reform, though. From the light-hearted atmosphere of the gym we are transported to memories of tougher times, as Cro Cop recalls witnessing the war when he was a teenager and losing his father while he was in the military. Cro Cop talks about some of his hardships while casually lying across train tracks. It’s unclear why, but maybe it’s just another metaphor we’re missing. In any case, this segment is important because it’s when we get two major origin stories: How Cro Cop really started training to be a fighter and how he joined the police special forces.

cro cop sad tales

It’s also when we get to watch an ad for Croatian beer.

Getting to watch one training montage in a 48-minute piece is quite the treat already, but of course Cro Cop had to go ahead and spoil us. This time, we get to watch some of his police training. There are guns and target practice and banter among shirtless men in crew cuts, further strengthening my freshly-developed theory that Cro Cop mirrored his whole adult life after his (and everyone else’s) icon Van Damme. At one point, we’re told by a man who appears to be Cro Cop’s superior in the anti-terrorist unit that they had to widen the hatch on the vehicles because Cro Cop was too swole for their regular ones.

Now would be the time to say that Cro Cop’s sense of humor, albeit generally delightful, can also be quite crude. After revealing his fear of flying, for instance, he says that he combats it by having two stewardesses sitting on his lap (I laughed, but immediately reprimanded myself). Asked whether he’s into politics or not, he answers affirmatively and proceeds to show his “2-3 politics magazines” — which, of course, feature naked ladies. I don’t know whether that would qualify as problematic, though, being that the naked female figure is not shameful. Perhaps what Cro Cop really meant by it is that, in a misogynist society, women’s bodies are inherently political. I guess we’ll never know.

In any case, after we’ve established the narrative and laid down the groundwork, it’s time to set the stage for the apotheosis of this particular hero’s journey. We tag along on Cro Cop’s trip to Japan, where he’s set to meet Kazushi Sakuraba in a PRIDE Shockwave fight. First, we get to see Cro Cop interacting with fans, fulfilling media duties, doing his medicals and weighing in. He also playfully armbars the cameraman alleging that he was asking too many questions during a card game. That is supposedly a joke but, as with basically every event that unfolds in this documentary, I have my questions.

We reach another pivotal moment when we finally get to hear why Cro Cop walks out to Duran Duran’s “The Wild Boys.” Apparently he just likes the song, which seems so simple and yet adds so much depth and complexity to the multi-layered birthday cake that is one Mirko Filipovic.

Then, it’s off to the fight, which we already knew Cro Cop won because this was 18 years ago. We don’t get to see the action itself, as the arena is huge and the camera only catches the ring and the big screen from a distance, but we get a brief off-camera play-by-play from the man himself. In response to a comment about how he was almost put to sleep by his opponent on the ground, Cro Cop answers that he did almost fall asleep, but from boredom. Then, not satisfied with getting a TKO and breaking Sakuraba’s orbital bone, Cro Cop decides to show off by completing a training session backstage. He also pretends to fall asleep during the press conference after a question. He somehow does it all in a very endearing way, though, like he does most things.

cro cop victory pose

I emphasize the word “most,” however. Later, after we get to meet his wife, Cro Cop volunteers some thoughts of how he believes women should be. Apparently we must have good manners, be good-looking, not swear, and “must not ask many questions.” He then kisses the camera, which I’ve taken to believe that this was all really just a joke and that Cro Cop in fact is simply critiquing the constant silencing of female voices even in allegedly progressive spaces.

Thankfully, we are once more spared from having to dwell too much in harsh realities, as Cro Cop is presented with another round of the association game.

Friendship: “The most beautiful thing in the world.”

Viagra: “What is that?

Laughter: “A thing I can’t do without.”

There’s also… Whatever this is:

cro cop fondness

Anyway, whatever ill will that one might be harboring against Cro Cop dissipates when he appears on-screen with a tiny dog. As we know, big swole men holding tiny dogs can never be disliked. It’s just science. The tiny dog is a pekinese, and it’s called Mickey. Mickey likes to lick Cro Cop’s face. We’re told that not only Mickey sleeps in bed, but he even has his won little pillow next to Cro Cop’s. Cro Cop also cleans Mickey’s little paws whenever he comes back from his little walks. Cro Cop really loves Mickey, as evidenced by the time when Mickey surreptitiously ran after a girl dog and drove Cro Cop to the brink of insanity. “It was perhaps the worst moments of my life,” Cro Cop said of the ordeal, adding that he didn’t eat for days and was “about to faint from sorrow.”

Let’s try not to think too much of the fact that this was shot in 2002 and what this means, mathematically, for Mickey’s chances of still being among us.

The documentary’s clever editing is once more in evidence when it brings us full circle. Now we are once back at a backyard, feeding off the carcass of a dead animal, with several men in what appear to be different stages of inebriation.

Naturally, the men start brawling among themselves. How could this possibly go wrong, you’re probably wondering, but life is funny like that. One of the men gets hit square in the face and collapses, knocked out. Don’t worry if you miss the moment the first time, by the way; there are about five replays, in different color schemes and speeds. It’s very classy. Everyone laughs for a good two seconds until Cro Cop rushes to the man and urges the laughter to stop because he is not responding. At one point someone yells “The tongue, the tongue.” It’s yet another sharp turn in the rollercoaster of emotions that is this piece, but thankfully the suspense doesn’t last long.

The man is, at least, alive. Apparently there was some confusion about the rules of this very thoroughly vetted and regulated bout between possibly drunk man without shirt vs. possibly drunk man with shirt. Cro Cop chuckles when explaining the situation, but admits he “died from fear” and the situation was no laughing matter.

Fortunately, we don’t part ways on a sour note. The movie ends with the men, all alive and fully clothed with the exception of one, singing a song with their arms around each other.

The shot is in black-and-white, because art.