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This moving – but never cloying – documentary tracks the fortunes of the American and Canadian quadraplegic, indoor rugby (a sport nicknamed ‘murderball’) teams as they compete in a handful of tournaments in 2003 and 2004, culminating in last year’s Paralympic Games in Athens. What emerges is more interesting, thankfully, than a linear offering of sporting triumph in the face of adversity (‘We’re not going for a hug, we’re going for a fucking gold medal,’ says one member of the American team, unwittingly capturing the spirit of the film) and, away from the literal rough-and-tumble of the murderball court, there are some good insights into disabled life presented with an admirable lack of sentiment or prejudice.
Of course there’s still a fair amount of classic scoreboard-watching of the nervous sort, but the film’s directors (who don’t seem to care who actually wins) provoke equal interest from their well-researched portraits of several key players. Most notable are obsessive and barely likeable Team Canada coach Joe Soares (a recent defector from the American camp), who displays an ugly competitive spirit and an obsession with sport that affects even his approach to parenting, and Team America player Mark Zupan, a self-confessed ‘jock’ who has an unlikely relationship with a distinctly un-sporty ex-morgue worker and, remarkably, still maintains a strong bond with Christopher Igoe, the school-friend whose drink-driving put him in a wheelchair in the first place. ‘Murderball’ suggests that sport is one way of dealing with a new and serious disability, but fortunately it makes no wild claims for redemption or recovery beyond belief for any of its protagonists.

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday November 4 2005
Duration: 88 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Dana Adam Shapiro, Henry-Alex Rubin
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