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More than merely a sports documentary or an inspirational profile of triumph over adversity, "Murderball" offers a refreshing and progressive attitude toward disability while telling unforgettable stories about uniquely admirable people. It's ostensibly a film about quadriplegic rugby (or "Murderball," as it was formerly known), in which players with at least "some" loss of physical function in all four limbs navigate modified wheelchairs in a hardcore, full-contact sport that takes them all the way to the Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece, in 2004. But as we get to know paralyzed or amputee players on Team USA like Andy Cohn, Scott Hogsett, Bob Lujano and charismatic team spokesman Mark Zupan, we come to understand that quad rugby is a saving grace for these determined competitors, who battle Team Canada coach (and former Team USA superstar) Joe Soares en route to the climactic contest in Athens. Simply put, "Murderball" is the best film to date about living with a severe disability, but codirectors Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro avoid the sappy, inspirational sentiment that hampers nearly all mainstream films involving disability. By the time this blazing 85-minute film reaches its emotional conclusion, the issue of disability is almost irrelevant; these guys are as normal as anyone, and their life stories led to "Murderball" becoming the most critically acclaimed documentary of 2005. "--Jeff Shannon"
|Actors:||Joe Soares, Keith Cavill, Mark Zupan, Joe Bishop, Andy Cohn|
|Director:||Dana Adam Shapiro|
|Number of Discs:||1|
|Studio:||Velocity / Thinkfilm|
|Run Time:||88 minutes|
|DVD Release Date:||November 29, 2005|
|Average Customer Rating:|| based on 81 reviews|
|Average Customer Review: ( 81 customer reviews )
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 56 found the following review helpful:
Easily the best documentary I've ever seen Aug 02, 2005
By Kristopher Haines
I've seen my share of documentaries, and I've seen a few that have dealt with disability. "Murderball" easily eclipses them all.
Too often people with disabilites get thrust into the role of flawless inspirations, this principle has held true across both fictional and non-fictional films alike. It was because of this trend that I approached "Murderball" with cautious optimism.
It was very surprising indeed when "Murderball" was in fact a genuinely uplifting and inspiring film,a film that dared to really show its subjects complete with flaws. Two other disability-related documentaries I've seen are "Rolling" and "King Gimp" Both are probably extremely inspiring to an able-bodied audience, but speaking as someone who is in a wheelchair, some of the moments in those films were downright horrifying and depressing. For example in "Rolling", a woman falls out of bed while dressing herself and videotapes her barely censored nude rescue by an able-bodied friend and her husband. Able-bodied audences would say, "what grit and determination" I sat there and prayed that would never happen to me. "King Gimp" profiles a supremely talented artist and parts of his story are inspiring especially to someone like myself who wants to have a career in the arts. Yet, it too depressed me because much of the film concerns the subject's unrequited love for a female caregiver. He laments that he will never find anyone.
"Murderball" on the other hand avoids those pitfalls and showcases some of the nastiest, (...)ever to hit the screen and even though I most certainly do not fit into that category and wouldn't be caught dead playing the titular sport I enjoyed every minute of it. All of the people in this film have a level of independence that for the moment I can only dream of, and they are much more impaired than I am in certain respects. So seeing them doing something they love, and quite a few of them FINDING love is absolutely, unadulteratedly inspiring. It is the first documentary I've seen that left me happy through the end credits.
29 of 34 found the following review helpful:
The Unstoppables Jul 20, 2005
By MICHAEL ACUNA
"Murderball" is ostensibly about quadriplegic wheelchair rugby and there are some truly thrilling scenes of play between archrivals the USA and Canada...to be sure.
But what "Murderball" is really about is the undeniable, unstoppable, fire-in-the-belly will to live and more specifically the drive to overcome adversity: both of spirit and of body.
Athletes Mark Zupan, Joe Soares, etc. all exhibit, really inhabit such a positive, go-for-broke take on life and living that you cannot help but be embarrassed when you start to think of your piddly problems.
One of the things a Documentary should do is enlighten and inform and "Murderball" has those two topics covered---no problem. But "Murderball" also gives you Hope and that is a quality to which most other films can only aspire.
11 of 12 found the following review helpful:
An incredible sports documentary Feb 11, 2006
By David Bonesteel
This powerful documentary should serve as an antidote to anyone who ever felt uncomfortable around a person in a wheelchair. The individuals profiled, all participants in the full-contact sport of wheelchair rugby, are independent and demand to be regarded without pity. They are fierce competitors in a grueling sport, going for the gold in the Paralympics in a 12-country competition.
Although several people are featured, the central figures are Marc Zupan and Joe Soares. Marc is currently among the top players in the sport, a charismatic man whose zest for life will not be diminished. Joe, a former superstar, is at first bitter about the way age has robbed him of his skills; a dramatic and unexpected development midway through the film seems to transform the way he looks at life and his relationship with his son.
Like the best documentaries, "Murderball" offers a glimpse into the lives of people that have much to teach us. Recommended.
6 of 6 found the following review helpful:
Killer of a film Aug 24, 2005
By Jean E. Pouliot
There are several ways that a film about the disabled can fly off coure. One is to make every disabled person a paragon of virtue and an exemplar of courage and persistence. The other is to pretend that their physical afflictions are ultimately inconsequential, and that they can be treated just like anyone else. Another is to portray the disabled as objects for pity. "Murderball" avoids these pitfalls, delivering a film that is frank, moving and informative.
On its surface, "Murderball" is about the US and Canadian wheelchair rugby teams in their run-up to the 2004 Paralympic games in Athens. But the film is also about the difficulties these men experience, trying to make their way from crippling accidents and illnesses that robbed them of the use of their limbs. By turns profane, angry, proud, aggressive and loving, the men are chronicled undergoing the real-life frustrations and fulfillments of participating in a sport that is as recklessly dangerous as the accidents that literally broke their backs.
These are not men to be pitied. Some are annoying and (as their friends tell us) were so before their accidents. Some are insanely driven. Some have unresolved issues about those responsible for their injuries. Some are narcissistic, putting their own needs above their family's. Yet some have devoted girlfriends and wives, and many have extremely supportive families. Above all, these men are athletes, with the same swagger and aggressiveness as their un-chairbound counterparts. But the capacity of these men is not be overestimated. The first scene, in which US team member Mark Zupan painstakingly changes into his rugby shorts, makes it clear that while these men have normalized their lives to a great degree, their day-to-day existence is nowhere near as easy as it had been.
The film is not for the faint of heart. The testosterone level (with its concomitant profanity) is very high. A section on paraplegic sex is uncomfortable, verging on the pornographic. And the sight of the newly-injured beginning the long struggle to (maybe) adapt to such debilitating injuries is heart-wrenching. Still "Murderball" delivers, persuading the viewer that these men are not participating in a feel-good activity but are truly expressing their inner desire to excel in spite of their injuries.
5 of 5 found the following review helpful:
A Compelling, Interesting Documentary Jul 12, 2005
I would venture to say you probably haven't heard of the new documentary "Murderball". This is a shame, because the film is really good. Hopefully, after you read this review, I will have convinced you to see the film and help support it.
Some of the best documentaries I have seen accomplish a number of things. They tell a compelling story, about a number of interesting people, depicting an intriguing conflict, in a clear and concise way. Yep, "Murderball" does all that.
"Murderball" tells the story of the United States Paralympics Rugby team as they work towards the 2004 Paralympics Games in Athens. The USA team has won 11 of the last 11 international championships making them reviled and a target for all of the other countries. Everyone wants to knock the USA team off the top. The film concentrates on a small number of participants; Zupan, the tattooed, goateed mid-twenty something star of Team USA, Joe Soares, a former member of Team USA, who, because he is a little older and slower, was cut from Team USA and now coaches Team Canada, and Keith, a young man who had his accident very recently and is just beginning the rehabilitation process. The rivalry between Soares and Team USA is the central conflict in the story. Soares is determined to yank victory, and the title, away from his former team, and Zupan is just as determined to make sure this doesn't happen.
The film quickly introduces each of the core members of Team USA and Soares. We get a glimpse of who they are, why they are and what they are. As we get to know them as individuals, we also get a quick lesson is what being a quadriplegic means, how the injuries can happen, how each of their injuries occurred and what their life has been like since the accident. It is a lot of information to assimilate, but the filmmakers use a combination of interviews with the subjects, their families and friends, and unique graphics to get all of the details across. All of the information is presented quickly and efficiently. After we have an understanding of the people, we get a crash course in the rules for the rugby games. Again, very useful to the viewer.
As "Ball" progresses, the focus shifts from the games to concentrate on the characters. We learn about Zupan's accident and his strained relationship with his best friend. We witness Soares' near addiction to the game and how this affects his relationship with his wife and son, a straight A, non-athletic student. We also get a glimpse of the rehab process through Keith. Keith is used as a vehicle to give the viewer a more thorough understanding of what it means to be a quadriplegic. We meet him early in the process of his rehab, everything is new and fresh to him, and us. As he learns about how to deal with his new life; how to undo the Velcro on his shoes, how to get into bed, how to have sex with his girlfriend, we learn along with him. This is a surprisingly effective method of humanizing not only his character, but the entire film.
As the film progresses, the focus stays on the characters as they compete against one another. The games are not followed in great detail, merely synopsized to show us the outcome. The games are a framework, a reason to meet these compelling characters. The competitions are a goal for the individuals, adding another dimension to their lives.
It is also refreshing to watch a film about people playing a sport that takes the time and effort to do more than just talk about the sport. Also, the ending is surprising, not what anyone in the film was hoping for, so that adds another element of surprise.
"Murderball" is a compelling, fast moving, interesting and informative documentary. It is everything a documentary should be. Go and see it. Go on. Go!
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