Murderball is one of those films that I started watching a little reluctantly despite the positive reviews it has garnered. I mean who takes any notice of reviews .....Anyway watch I did and thank jimmine for that for it's the best film I've seen in awhile.
Muderball is a slightly hyped name for wheelchair rugby which is played by paraplegics in as signified earlier specially customised wheelchairs. Basically a member of the team has to cross the opposition's line in order to score a point. It's fast, skilful and unpredictably aggressive. The film centres on the implacable rivalry between the U.S.A. team and the Canadian team. This is almost exclusively down to the fact that the Canadian coach, Jeff Soares used to represent the U.S.A. (indeed he was their best player for a number of years) but when he was dropped he flounced off in a mighty huff and ended up coaching their rivals. The American team view Soares as a traitor to his Country while he ...well lets just say he hasn't taken rejection well and seems to be permanately on the verge of exploding or imploding ...it's kind of hard to tell.
We pick up their rivalry as they are preparing for the World championships in Sweden in 2002. The most outspoken member of the American team is Mark Zupan, a scary intense looking guy, and we are treated to him and Soares bad mouthing each other as they inevitably prepare to face each other in the final .The result only serves to intensify the depth of feelings between the sides and add, if ever it was needed, spice to the build up to the 2004 Paralympics where the two are expected to contest the final again.
This is all hugely entertaining and it's amazing how quickly you become caught up in the rivalry. What elevates Murderball above mere titillation though is the depth added to the film by the players back stories, their personalities and in one notable case a bit of personal growth. We learn that Soares, a sporty competitive individual contacted polio as a child and that his relationship with his son Robert is strained because the boy is a sensitive non-sporty type, a high achiever at school and a gifted musician. Soares is dismissive of his strengths and is a believer in tough love but eventually he softens and there are some touching scenes between the two. Zupan, we find out, was injured in an incident where he was thrown form a flat bed truck driven by a drunk driver. This person happened to be his best friend Chris Igoe and again we watch their understandably compromised relationship rehabilitate till they are inseparable. Again it's quite touching.
Talking of rehabilitation which I kind of was the film also introduces us to Keith , recently badly injured in a motor cross accident who is just starting out on the rocky road to independence and he , after meeting Zupan at one of many lectures about the sport the articulate but still scary Zupan gives , determines to take up wheelchair rugby. Potential sequel here?
The film is as much about how a seemingly disastrous debilitating tragedy can lead to something else, can open up avenues and become a positive. None emphasise this more than Bob Luciano, the most severely paraplegic of the U.S. team who is also the most positive and the most likable. There are terrific segments where the team discuss attitudes towards them (If you think you are being altruistic or kind you are usually being patronising) and most amusingly their approach to sex and masturbating. As one says about girls "The more pitiful I am, the more they like me". In that case why haven't I pulled as many women as Warren Beatty? A tremendous life affirming movie.