Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2005 at 07:00 PM
By: S. Tran
Starring: Joe Soares, Mark Zupan
Directed by: Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Rated: Rated R for language and sexual content
We've seen so many films presenting wheel chair athletes as heroic figures overcoming all odds to do the things they love so it's a refreshing to have a movie like Murderball. Murderball follows the lives of a men who play Murderball, or Quad Rugby as its now known. Be warned these aren't your typical saintly wheelchair athletes however. These are cocky, abrasive, loud, brash, angry, horny guys who happen to be in wheelchairs. Come to think of it they are more like the athletes I am used to seeing all the time.
The movie introduces us to the full contact sport of Murderball then to the men who play it. The focus of the story is on Mark Zupan the star of the American national team and Joe Soares, a former American team member who was cut and joined the Canadian team as a coach. Mark and Joe have a undisguised loathing for each other as we find out when Mark claims he wouldn't pee on Joe even if he were on fire. Both Mark and Joe are fierce competitors who have more than a few rough edges and they serve as the focus of the film. Combine this with the violence of the sport itself and the intensity with which they hurl themselves into each other and you start forgetting that most of these men have broken their necks and can't walk.
The climax of the movie is the showdown between the two teams at the Para-Olympics and we follow the teams and the characters on each leading up to that point. Along the way team members disclose the tragedies that confined them to their wheelchairs and the adversities they faced. These moments are all effective and pull at the usual heartstrings.
The best moments in the film however show the athletes talking about and doing thing unrelated to their wheelchairs. The candid discussions about sex, women, fighting and the practical jokes they play serve more to make them "just like anyone else" than all the platitudes we've heard before in similar works. We start to admire them not because of their ability to play Murderball but for their ability to continue with their lives outside the sport.
If you want to see something a little different this summer check out Murderball. Few movies can provide the same combination of laughs, reflection and guys smashing into each other at full speed.
3.5 out of 5 stars.