Starring: Keith Cavill, Joe Soares, Mark Zupan
Director: Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro
ALSO! Check out where it ranked in our 2005 Year in Review.
If you go see a film called “Murderball,” then you better know what to expect. What sounds like a shitty, low-budget sci-fi film is in actuality a documentary about a sport played by quadriplegics. Murderball is the original, less-marketable name for quad rugby, a full-contact sport played in armored wheelchairs by men with limited mobility in their arms and legs. With apparently no fear of further damaging their spinal cords, these men attempt to bash each other out of their wheelchairs in an effort to score points by crossing a goal line.
“Murderball” centers on the U.S. Quad Rugby team, and their turncoat former teammate who left the squad to coach their rivals, Team Canada. For the most part, “Murderball” has been marketed as a sports film full of suspense and thrills, but in reality there is little actual quad rugby featured. The majority of the movie is spent delving into the lives of these men off the court. This may come as disappointment to some, but it is this in-depth look into their lives where “Murderball” finds its strength.
Focusing on a few of the players, the movie tells us how these men were injured, how they cope with their injuries, and most importantly, how they have overcome them. Each man’s story is tragic but inspiring. Some were hurt in automobile accidents, some were ravaged by disease as a child, but all have accepted their new lives and have overcome the challenges they have faced.
One of the triumphs of “Murderball” is what it teaches us. In one of the funniest and most shocking moments of the film, we see a newly paralyzed man discussing his sexual options with a doctor, and are then treated to bits of a “how to” video guide on the subject. “Murderball” shatters our preconceptions of men living with quadriplegia, and has the courage to show these guys for who they are, despite their circumstances. Whether they are great guys, meatheads, or just plain assholes, that is what is presented to the audience, regardless of the chair.
For the most part, “Murderball” is extremely entertaining and moving. While some moments seem forced, most are genuine. Late in the film some of the players take a trip to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. They demonstrate quad rugby to newly maimed soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. They show these injured men that life goes on. And when we are shown newly formed glimmers of hope in the faces of those who had none, it is powerful and emotional, and it is filmmaking at its very best.
Along with two separate commentaries from the players and the filmmakers, there are deleted scenes, the Larry King show featuring the five main players, and MTV’s Jackass show dedicated to the movie. Mark Zupan and Steve-O play the black eye game, while Andy Cohn and Scott Hogsett do cattle prod jousting (when Johnny Knoxville goes to help Scott up after he’s fallen out of his chair, Scott zaps Johnny in the nuts with the cattle prod). There is also an update interview with Joe Soares, who tries to clear his name somewhat, and he succeeds, though it’s not very entertaining to watch. The deleted scenes hit the cutting room floor for a reason, though the food fight scene and the softball game are awfully amusing.