Worth A Look: 6.35%
Pretty Bad: 3.17%
Total Crap: 3.17%
5 reviews, 33 user ratings
by Erik Childress
SCREENED AT THE 2005 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: If there was ever a greater title at a film festival, then I didn’t attend that year. It took about two seconds for me to gravitate towards the description and about a half-second to lock this in on my Sundance schedule. It’s not a variation on Death Race 2000 or an extreme version of Rollerball. Or maybe it is in some way. Actually it’s the original name for the sport of quad rugby; quadriplegics playing full-contact smash in armored-enforced wheelchairs that look like something out of The Road Warrior. Who wouldn’t want to watch that? And who would expect a documentary with such a title about these men to be such a moving exploration about life after a period that many would consider as death?Opening on the footage of these guys gingerly getting ready for the game and then brutally bashing each other on the gym floor is a perfect encapsulation of the struggle, determination and occasional anger that anyone would feel having their lives radically altered. Even on the court, their conditions are ranked according to their mobility. Partial use of their upper body gets a half-point while stronger players earn a three-and-a-half. At no time can a team field a court of more than eight total points.
"More Than Just A Sports Documentary With An Awesome Title!"
Beginning as a classic sports story, the World Championship in 2002 has the dominating Team USA facing their greatest rival, the Canadians. Beyond borders, this rivalry is particularly intense thanks to Joe Soares. He was an American all-star for years and has the room of trophies at home to prove it. When his own mobility suffered (even quad athletes are prone to the aging bug) Joe was cut from the USA team and he defected to the Great White North to become the coach of Team Canada. When they knock USA off of their 10-year perch, one player asks Joe, “How does it feel to betray your country?”
Joe may seem like the villain of the piece, unless you’re Canadian or so single-minded not to become involved in his story, one of many players we follow through the course of the film. Team USA’s spokesman, Mark Zupan, is just as determined and stubborn as Joe, who contracted his condition through a bout of polio as a child. Mark, on the other hand, was asleep in the back of his buddy’s truck when a bout of drunk driving catapulted him into a ravine. Try to repress all your anger after a freak tragedy like that.
These are men who occasionally have trouble making connections beyond their desire to succeed. Joe’s 12-year old son plays music and is polarized to dad’s alpha personality. Mark hasn’t spoken to the friend who “made him” in years. Where they do find a bond is with the women in their lives; who didn’t “stick-by” their man as an afterthought to their plight. They came to them knowing full well what the score was and it’s a testament to these women and the power of love when you see the wide-eyed emotion these men display when they are with them. There’s even an informative and droll bit using sex-ed films to explore how their sex lives need not be impaired.
Perhaps the greatest connection that shines through in Murderball is the inspiration these competitors provide to those fighting through the early stages of their injuries. Keith Cavill was a motocross racer before the sport took his legs. His reaction to the modifications his family has made to his bathroom is precisely how most of us would react (at least internally) and there’s a great shot of Keith’s old wheels and his new wheels standing side-by-side. But it’s Keith’s reaction to Mark Zupan and the Team USA crew that lights up a room and shines that little ray of hope that life hasn’t ended just yet.Somehow, someday, Murderball seems destined to have a fiction-based treatment up on the big screen. The story is that compelling and has all the classic elements of underdog triumph right up to the big rematch. But filmmakers Dana Adam Shapiro, Jeffrey Mandel and Henry Alex Rubin have given us the real story of these men, devoid of the restraints of the fictional medium which predisposes some cynics to replace inspiration with banality. There’s nothing corny about the players of Murderball and certainly none of us want to be in their seats. But if we were, we should all hope we could be just like them.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11206&reviewer=198
originally posted: 02/03/05 03:38:17
|OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Independent Film Festival of Boston. For more in the 2005 Independent Film Festival of Boston series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Deep Focus Film Fest For more in the 2005 Deep Focus Film Fest series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2005 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sydney Film Festival For more in the 2005 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Atlanta Film Festival For more in the 2005 Atlanta Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.