Murderball (Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro). 86 minutes. Opens Friday (July 15). For venues and times, see Movies, page 89. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Forget Million Dollar Baby. This slick, accomplished sports doc demonstrates that jocks will be jocks, with or without the full use of all four limbs.
It follows the operatic struggle for supremacy between the U.S. quad rugby team and its nemesis, Team Canada. The film has comedy, pathos, betrayal and redemption - particularly betrayal. The Canadian coach is an irascible former U.S. champion who's driven by a thirst for vengeance after being cut from his own country's team.
The filmmakers address the problems athletes face after paralysis without flinching or resorting to sentimental piety. This is a fiercely character-driven film, full of miniature dramas about the complex and often troubled relationships between the players: Mark Zupan , the abrasive American star, struggles with lingering resentment of the close friend whose car accident caused his injury; Joe Soares , the Canadian coach, finds it difficult to accept his unathletic son.
Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro gained exceptional access to the lives of these athletes, and they've used it wisely, patiently piecing together a story with depth and dramatic tension. And they know how to make sports work onscreen. The bouts between the opposing teams are edge-of-the-seat exciting, especially if you happen to be rooting for Team Canada.