Murderball get Murderball

Year: 2005

Director: Henry Alex Rubin & Dana Adam Shapiro

Budget: ?

Domestic Gross: $1 523 883

anyone who watches the tv show Friday Night Lights (and you all should, because it is a great show) knows that one of the characters on the show is in a wheelchair.  he was the #1 quarterback for the high school football team until he tried to make a tackle and ended up a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the waist down.  i mention this because on the show his character has taken up the sport of wheelchair rugby which reminded me of a movie i had sitting on my shelf that i had never watched called Murderball.  i recently decided to finally watch it, and am very glad i did.

put simply, Murderball is a documentary about wheelchair rugby (the sport was invented in canada and was initially called muderball), but in actuality, like any good documentary, it is about so much more.

the film begins at the wheelchair rugby world championships and then takes us through to the paralympic games in athens, greece a couple years later.  in between we get to know some of the key players, look into their lives, watch them train, learn about how they were injured and see some of the people around them.

there are a few key characters in the film and they include a few of the american athletes and the coach of the canadian team. why him you ask?  well, that is because his name is joe soares and for 15 years he was on the american team and one of the best wheelchair rugby players in the world.  however, when he didn't make the team at the last tryouts and his appeals to the courts were unsuccessful, he headed up to canada to coach and seek revenge on his former team.  i know it sounds like a bad hollywood script, but it is all true, and very engaging. while joe is, i guess, made out to be the 'villain' in the movie, he isn't portrayed as completely one dimensional.  he even seems to come to a personal revelation about his relationship with his son and how it has been effected by the relationship he had with his father (who was a very strict disciplinarian) - there is a nice follow-up interview with joe on the DVD 'special features' that answers many of the questions brought up about him by the film.

speaking of questions, one of the reasons i really enjoyed Murderball was that it did a good job of answering my questions.  watching the movie i had a lot of questions running through my head about the sport of wheelchair rugby, about the players, their injuries, their abilities, girlfriends, sex, etc... and the film really answered most of them.

The film was produced in participation with mtv films and you can see it in the way it was made.  the use of music and the camera work, especially during the scenes at the world championships, is very 'cool', and i mean that in a good way - something about it reminded me of Lock, Stock and Two smoking barrells in its stylization.

another one of the relationships looked at in the film is the one between star american player marc zupan and christopher igoe. igoe was zupan's best friend and had been driving the car when it had gone off the road and sent zupan flying into the river where he had hung on for over 13 hours before being rescued, but as a result ended up in a wheelchair. 

Murderball made a big splash on the festival circuit when it was released, and was even nominated for best documentary at the academy awards.  however, as with most documentaries, it didn't gross as much, or get seen by as many people, as it deserved.  if you are looking for a sad, feel-sorry-for-me film Murderball isn't for you.  if you want a well-made interesting film that exposes without exploiting these great wheelchair athletes then don't forget about Murderball.