These guys don't need legs to KICK ASS!
Murderball brings us the true life adventure of the "Quad Rugby" teams, groups of quadriplegic tough guys riding around in wheelchairs that look like things out of The Road Warrior, slamming each other about and using their balls to score more than Peter North and Ron Jeremy combined. Originally called "Murderball", this sport has its own heroes and villains, its own international superstars and multi-national Olympic teams. Like any sport of comparable magnitude, it also has its coaches who obsess over it.
The Human story here isn't at all lost, and each of our principal characters is given an origin story worthy of a Comic Book Superhero. The only difference is that instead of detailing some fortunate accident that gave them super powers, we are told of the terrible tragedies that made these men disabled. To hear them tell their tales, though, you might think the Murderball players are actually talking about gaining super powers, as each of them consider this to be not just living, but living GREAT. They still party, still dance, still get laid (probably more than you do) and still kick ass, and none of them seem to resent "the chair" at all.
Quad Rugby can be violent and dangerous and the way these dudes use their chairs, one would expect them to all have Roll Bars. However, this is a sports movie that focuses on the players... the aforementioned superheroes and how they relate to the sport. Mark Zupan was a tough jock razor blade before the accident that disabled him. After the accident Mark Zupan is a tough jock razor blade who is also a sports celebrity with a really hot girlfriend. Scott Hogsett is the Ladies Man of the group. Teased hair and teasing attitude, the guy is no different in the chair than out. Then there's Andy Cohn who looks like Eminem and acts like a stand up comic (pardon the expression). The tight knit family (which also includes Bob Lujano and Kevin Orr) is hard to break... until it's broken.
Broken, that is, by the relatively legendary Joe Soares who was cut from the team due to his age. In response he jumps ship and becomes the head coach of the Canadian team. This not only gives the Canadian Wheelchair Rugby team a real boost and turns them into some serious competition, but it also turns the rivalry between the Americans and Canadians into an out and out feud. Naturally their anger is understandable, until directors Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro begin to focus heavily on Joe, his history, his family life and his situations. This doesn't suddenly make him a sweetie, but it does give him a full three dimensions (you DVD Watchers should check out the extras and get the final word from Joe).
To an extent, Rugby is the salvation of these guys and it might be their entire lives, for better or for worse. In many cases this isn't such a nightmare, as it does give some folks within the bleakest time of their lives something to live for. This is best displayed in the story of the newly paralyzed young man, Keith Cavill. Keith's depression is palpable and undeniable until the day Mark Zupan rolls into his ward and pops him right into his Murderball wheelchair.
Still, this is a sports movie and no sports movie would be complete without a final be-all end-all match between the home team and their rivals. We get one... boy do we get one! Check it out like a library book, it beats the eff you see kay out of the finale of Friday Night Lights... and it's got a steadier camera too. "Documentary Style" indeed!
Four Stars out of Five for Murderball, an Occupational Therapist's funding dream come true. Murderball is nothing if not thorough, and successfully shows the rich and fulfilling life that the so-called disabled can enjoy. I don't know about you, but if I see Mark Zupan coming after my ass in that Xavier Chair gone mad, I'm going to get the hell out of there but quick. Most likely I'll be running toward the next reel. Roll over to it with me!
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