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Directed by Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro.
Release Year:  2005 
Review Date:  8/4/05


It's gotten big pub all year long on the indie documentary circuit, so I finally got off my lazy arse and checked out the festival favorite "Murderball" at the indie house on Tuesday.

Following the U.S. Wheelchair Rugby team from the World Championships in 2002 to last year's World Championships, "Murderball" deals with both the players on the U.S. team and the coach of the Canadian team--former U.S. star Joe Soares--on and off the court as they gear up to play each other at various points throughout the year.  The movie gives us a high-level look at the sport and how much ass the Americans have been kicking since wheelchair rugby--known initially as "murderball" due to its high-velocity run-ins that leave most players with even more physical pain than they are already enduring.  We also get to know some of the U.S. team's star players, like Mark Zupan and Scott Hogsett, off the court as they deal with life as a quadriplegic in the real world.

Much like my love for the story outside of good ol' boy Morgan Spurlock's 30-day crash McD's diet in "Super Size Me", "Murderball" is interesting in its detail of the rugby championships but it is phenomenal when we get off of it, be it conversations about the sex life of a quadriplegic or about how a guy that gets through life using only his elbows could possibly be happy with his situation.  That part of the film never gets old--appreciating the ability just to be able to take a card out of its envelope will drive some people to tears when they watch one kid struggle with his going-away present mid-flick.  We get to hear about the various accidents that put each U.S. player in his particular physical state; all of them are devastating, be it the fault of a man's actions or just bad luck due to nature itself.  I loved every second of these sequences in the film.

In fact, it's the rugby itself that feels intrusive; by only staging games in situations that matter most, there isn't the same kind of dramatic buildup that a work of fiction would have (obviously) so we are left with only watching these guys play in world championship matches or qualifiers.  The action isn't as hard-hitting as the name indicates, taking away from its vaunted reputation.  And while the tale of the turncoat Canadian head coach is interesting, all it provides is a bad guy for the audience as they root their American brothers on to victory.

This wasn't that bad a thing for a while...but, the film's last 15 minutes truly feel like the filmmakers literally ran out of money, from the way the film runs through the 2004 championships all the way through the end-ending of the movie.  It's rushed, it has a bit of an anti-climactic result and worst of all, "Murderball" deals mostly with the rugby as things are finishing out, which for me was bad because I was loving the other stuff so much.  The last frame pops up so quickly that I didn't believe it was the real ending at first...and then the credits started to roll, so I knew that I was hosed!!

Overall though, "Murderball" is a great flick.  It will leave you slack-jawed numerous times throughout the movie, and this has to be considered a great frickin' thing.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09