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Overall Rating
4.65

Awesome84.13%
Worth A Look: 6.35%
Average: 3.17%
Pretty Bad: 3.17%
Total Crap: 3.17%

5 reviews, 33 user ratings


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Murderball
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by EricDSnider

"Guys in wheelchairs who can beat me up."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: Contrary to common belief, being quadriplegic doesn't mean being unable to move your arms and legs at all. There are varying degrees of it: Quadriplegic simply means having limited mobility in all four limbs (and, yes, sometimes no mobility at all).

That distinction is important when you consider the documentary "Murderball" and its subject, the sport of quad rugby, in which teams of quadriplegic men in steel-reinforced wheelchairs play rugby on an indoor court as violently and ardently as their able-bodied counterparts out on the grass. The players with some arm mobility handle the passing, while those with less movement can block and provide defense. Everyone is given a ranking from 0.5 to 3.5 to match his upper-body mobility, and a team can only have a total of 8 points on the court at any given time. Quad rugby -- colloquially known as murderball -- is not for sissies, nor for people who think quadriplegics can't do anything.

If ever a movie could make you realize how much you don't appreciate your limbs, it's this one, a terrifically inspiring and entertaining film about men who, despite having limited mobility in all four limbs, could, any one of them, kick my butt. Meet Mark Zupan, who became paralyzed when he fell asleep drunk in the back of a buddy's pickup truck -- which the buddy then wrecked, sending Mark sailing into a canal, where he held onto a branch for 13 hours before being discovered. Meet Hogsett, who became a quad after a fistfight in which he was punched in the spine and sent over a balcony railing. Meet Keith, paralyzed after a motocross accident. Meet Bob, who had a type of meningitis when he was 9 years old that resulted not just in paralyzation but in his legs and forearms actually being removed. You admire these guys just for continuing to live, let alone for strapping themselves into armored chairs and playing rugby.

Directors Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro follow the U.S. quad rugby team from the 2002 World Championship in Sweden to the 2004 Paralympics Games in Athens. Team Canada defeats Team USA in Sweden, a loss made all the more bitter by the fact that Canada is now coached by former Team USA player Joe Soares, whose rugby skills slipped as he got older, leading him to be cut from the team. Much of Team USA, particularly Zupan, considers Joe a traitor, while Joe is still angry at having been dropped from the U.S. team in the first place. And thus a heated rivalry for the Gold Medal in Athens is established.

The film has all the makings of an excellent sports movie, including last-second victories and personal triumphs, but it refuses to settle for excellence in that genre alone. Instead, Rubin and Shapiro focus on the players, letting them speak frankly about their injuries and limitations while observing them both in daily life and in their preparations for the Games.

Every quad in the film refuses to be pitied, an attitude that carries over with a vengeance onto the rugby court. Snidely dismissing the common mistake of believing the Paralympics are the same thing as the Special Olympics, Hotsett snorts, "We're not going for a hug, we're going for a f****** Gold Medal." Elsewhere, Zupan's life-long friends point out that Zupan's being a hotheaded jerk has nothing to do with the accident. "He's always been an a**hole," one of them says.

Attention is paid to Canada's Joe Soares, too. Paralyzed since a childhood bout with polio, Joe is now a strict father with a 10-year-old son whom he can't quite relate to. Joe's sudden heart attack halfway through the film brings new depth to the story, and we are surprised to realize in Athens that we can't decide whom to root for, Team USA or Team Canada.

No one ever believes me when I say this, but "Murderball," a documentary, is every bit as exciting, funny, heartwarming and uplifting as any Hollywood sports movie. Rubin and Shaprio, both mostly inexperienced in documentary filmmaking, had the right idea to film everything and let their instincts guide them afterward on what to keep. What's left is a movie that entertains as much as it enlightens, a genuine testament to the strength of the human will.

(By the way, that question you've been wanting to ask? About whether quadriplegics can have sex? The answer is YES. Thank you, "Murderball." Thank you indeed.)

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11206&reviewer=247
originally posted: 04/21/05 16:23:25
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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.

User Comments

4/13/15 jokerass lol 1 stars
4/13/15 jokerass lol 1 stars
2/20/15 Chris Jarmick Lots of humor, and moves fast. Better than you expect. 4 stars
8/28/08 Shaun Wallner This ones ok. 3 stars
3/08/08 Pamela White shows how much strength these guys have 5 stars
1/31/08 maggie did you know Quad Rugby is co-ed? The film leans on masculinity way too much... 4 stars
1/08/08 mike rented it b/c of ratings on here and was bored out of my mind 2 stars
8/02/07 Madeline Wenmoth I absolutely love this movie so much. totally inspiring. "cray yammi"? you're an idiot. 5 stars
5/08/07 Jennifer this one didn't quite capture my attention... am i horrible? i love shapiro though 2 stars
9/03/06 Ann_G Awesome, incredible movie, watch it before you say quads can't use their arms. 5 stars
8/10/06 Ryan_A Fantastic doc. 5 stars
1/07/06 Indrid Cold Not a masterpiece, but definitely worth a look. Great, very emotional ending. 4 stars
12/09/05 Phil M. Aficionado Indomitable spirits united by a love of team competition; great, inspiring story. 5 stars
12/05/05 Rocky Anyone that isn't touched by this doc must be missing something inside that makes us huma 5 stars
10/14/05 jcjs some quads can use their arms..i helped a quad 50 years in a chair with arm use 5 stars
8/18/05 Maalstrom Entertaining and educational, opens your eyes to another slice of this world 4 stars
8/02/05 Hockeytown the more brutal it is, the more I like it 5 stars
7/25/05 Suke Best documentary I've seen in a long time. Inspiring and moving. 5 stars
7/13/05 Crazyquadrugby A must see for anyone that knows or is a Quad!! 5 stars
7/13/05 crazy yammi quads cant use their arms get a dictionary 5 stars
7/05/05 George Hatch One of the best and most inspiring documentaries I've seen this year. 5 stars
6/29/05 Jenn22 Unbelieveble 5 stars
6/22/05 Naka "Not recommended !!!!" Piss off. 5 stars
5/31/05 Johanna Hewlett Brown Well-done film that shows the many obstacles and joys in the lives of these people. 5 stars
5/31/05 Steve Excellent film. Go see it. 5 stars
5/01/05 herrinfamily none 3 stars
4/28/05 Braxton Williams Moving, funny, exciting, a real eye-opener, and more than I expected 5 stars
4/20/05 Josh amazing 5 stars
3/17/05 Glenn Worthman 1000 people roared when the credits rolled at SXSW 5 stars
2/02/05 Chris The movie is going to change alot of people perceptions of guys in chairs. It kicks Ass !! 5 stars
1/27/05 Lissa This movie depicts quad rugby perfectly. It's educational and entertaining! 5 stars
1/25/05 rachel gilli incredible, inspiring, a must see! 5 stars
1/22/05 Doris Roberts Unique ,thought provoking 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  08-Jul-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 29-Nov-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  15-Sep-2005




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