Murderball review by Cinema Guru Boy

There's something about wheelchair rugby that is undeniably intriguing. Is it just the mere freak-show mentality? Is it the condescending "poor guys are making good, fighting the odds"? No, these guys aren't freaks, nor can you feel sorry for them in any way. These guys are genuine athletes, as determined and competitive as anyone in the NFL or NBA. Or at least that's the stance the makers of Murderball take.

The film basically focuses on three Wheelchair-bound people, Wheelchair rugby (Formerly known as murderball) players of the past, present and future. The past is polio-stricken Joe Soares, former murderball goldenboy and star of the gold-medal winning 1996 paralympic Team USA. After passing his prime and getting older, Team USA cuts him, throwing him into downward spiral of revenge, resulting in his defecting to coach Team Canada. He is clearly painted as the villian, not only in the anti-patiotism of turning his back on his country, but filmmakers Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro also delve into his domestic life, in which he clearly puts the sport ahead of his wife and is ashamed of his nerdy straight-A musicain of a son for his disinterest in participation in athletics, reguardless of what a fan the son is of Joe. This is an absolutely fascinating character study of a man so filled with drive and ambition, it creates a man of personified selfishness. He is just so much fun to hate.

Then we have Mark Zupan, murderball player of the present. The film spans two and a half years, chronicalling Team USA from the 2002 World Tournament to the "Superbowl" of murderball, the 2004 paralympics. Zupan is the current goldenboy of the sport, filled with charisma and vulgarity, he is the Stone Cold Steve Austin of murderball, you have to root for this guy. Zupan, whose story is the flashiest of any in the film, also has a human side. After passing out drunk in the bed of his best friend's truck, his friend started to drive home drunk, only to get into an acciedent, flinging Zupan into a nearby river. When recovered, he had no use of his legs and less use of his arms and hands. That long-severed relationship between Zupan and his friend creates for the most emotional moments of the film, painting an extremely well-made touching plot-line Hollywood couldn't have created themsleves. As much a bastard as Zupan is, his exuding charisma makes him nothing but likable.

And then we have Keith Cavill, newly confined to the wheelchair, whose segments are still in the hospital, chronicalling his rehabilition period. He was a motocross athlete, during which he had an accident, confining him to his current state. This plotline is really the only one that you realize these guys are in wheelchairs at all, the rest of the time, they're just athletes. But in Keith, we have a portrait of a man filled with anger, depression and denial all at once. How Rubin and Shapiro showcased Keith was touching for every moment. And the way he lights up when Zupan shows up and shows him a rugby chair will send shivers down your spine. The hope that this guy could still be the athlete he once was is so awe-inspiring, this trumps everything that hokey movie Rudy ever did.

The major complaint of this film was the game footage itself. As great as Rubin and Shapiro were at telling a story, they were less apt at showing the actual sport. They chopped it up, just showing the score from time to time and totally disregaurded defense, highlighting the goals scored. The violent and strategic side of the game was entirely downplayed. It would've been nice to see Zupan really kicking some ass.

This was the most inspirational sports film I've ever seen. With such an interesting sport nobody knows about and such strong personalities in Soares and Zupan, Rubin and Shapiro did almost everything right to make the audience totally bummed to see the credits start rolling.

9 out of 10 Jackasses
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