Projections - Movie Reviews


Murderball



Rated: R
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: July 8, 2005 Released by: Think Film

This unsentimental, unpitying documentary about quadriplegics has some kind of mobility to it that varies like those afflicted with it.

Murderball considers the sport of "quad" rugby where those physically restricted play with a lot of passion from steel-reinforced wheelchairs on an indoor court.

The ones who have some ability to move their arms can do the passing while ones who can't use them as much can help out on defense. Each player is rated up to 3.5 points based on the use of their upper body and a team can't be over 8 points on the floor at one time.

This sport, every bit as rough as its outdoor counterpart, is only for those who treat quadriplegics with much respect.

Directors Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro are able to bring much interest and vitality to those who make the most of their paralyzations. Included is temperamental Mark Zupan ending up in a canal after a drunk-driving accident in which he hung on to a branch for nearly half a day before being found. Bob had meningitis and also had his forearms and legs amputated while Keith became paralyzed after a motocross accident. And Hogsett became a quadriplegic after being hit in the spine with a fist causing him to fall over a balcony railing.

Murderball also plays as an exemplary sports movie as the USA Quad Rugby squad goes from the 2002 World Championships in Sweden to Athens' 2004 Paralympics Games. When Canada beat USA there is some bitterness because Canada's coach, Joe Soares, once was a formidable Team USA player whose skills deteriorated over time (he was cut from the USA team). His paralysis was brought on by childhood polio. There are angry feelings for and against Joe, as a heated battle for the Gold in Athens is viable.

But, throughout, there is much personal insight (with much pervasive language) into the players who strive to triumph on the court and in their daily lives which include much practice for their ultimate goal which isn't to be confused with the Special Olympics. Soares himself becomes a wrenching figure in this moving, witty, and exciting documentary when the father with an uneasy relationship with his 10 year-old son gets another terrible shock during the midway point.

Rubin and Shapiro, both new to the genre, have made something extremely entertaining, and not just in a sympathetic way as most take it for granted how much our limbs aren't valued. The competition is grueling and amazing to observe and what these individuals will themselves to do is much more than any performance-enhancement drugs can offer. And, those playing Murderball make out better off the court than some might think.

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Murderball B+     A-       A-

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