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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"
- Murderball Special featuring Johnny Knoxville and Steve-O from MTV's Jackass and Mark Zupan
- CNN Larry King Live Exclusive Interview
- Featurette: Murderball: Behind the Game
- Joe Soares Interview Update
- Deleted Scenes
- Filmmaker Commentary (Featuring Dana Adam Shapiro, Henry-Alex Rubin and Jeff Mandel)
- Player Commentary (Featuring Mark Zupan, Scott Hoggsett and Andy Cohn)
- NYC Premiere - Keith Gets His Chair
- THINK MTV Outreach Page
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Murderball was originally created for those people who were unable to play wheelchair basketball. Wheelchair basketball (a great sport in its own right) requires at least some use of your hands. With Murderball you have to have both hand and leg "issues". You don't even have to have hands! As long as you can push your chair around. . . you can play Murderball. Each player is given a "point value" and there is a maximum number of "points" allowed on the court. It's a really fun game to watch. It's played in the Paralympics, and this year (2012) the United States won the bronze medal. They came SO close to going to the gold-medal-match. . . but with seconds left on the clock. . . they lost by one point. FYI, Andy Cohn (who is in the movie) and another guy are still playing on the U.S. team. I REALLY wish the U.S. TV networks would step-it-up and show more of the Paralympics, including "Wheelchair Rugby". Go online, and you can find out where tournaments are being played around the country. I HIGHLY recommend checking them out. Mark Zupan used to be my favorite player. . . but now I think it's David Anthony on the British 2012 Wheelchair Rugby team! Check him out online with the blue Mohawk!
This movie is quite inspirational. . . . and fun. You're not feeling sorry for anyone. The only one I was feeling sorry for was myself! I'd love to give it a try! Hahahahaha
FYI. . If you're looking to watch a lot of the game. . . this is not the film. There's really not a lot of play going on. But there is enough so you get the idea of what it's all about.
The filmmakers never preach in this film. They present reality as reality. They give us slices of the players' lives, their loves, their foibles. They shot the film from the viewpoint of sitting in a wheelchair; it is an intimate look at what the view is from there. We see the struggle putting clothes on, rolling over, tackling a task such as taking your shoes off. We get to experience the laughter and the joy of finding out that you can still enjoy sex, and the casts' surprisingly good humor about the endless fascination some females have for men in wheelchairs. We also see how self-sufficient is a man who can hustle himself and all his equipment through an airport; for whom international travel has become a reality and a frequent opportunity at the highest echelons of the sport. The directors concentrate on what makes a team a team, and how team pride, at this level, uplifts to pride in the country you play for. There's some brief explanation of the rules of wheelchair rugby, but mostly you get the feel of the action by watching slices of the USA's matches against their arch-rivals, the Canadian team. Particularly telling is a feature that shows the amount of points a team can have on the floor at any one moment. Players are ranked by the "deepness" of their disability with 1-3 points. No team can have more than 8 points on the floor at once. A revelation.
We also get to see those unique personalities that abound in every sport at the highest level of play....Mark Zuban, a true hotshot in every aspect of what that word means. He's mean, he's brutally honest, in fantastic condition and the heart of Team USA. Despite his outward cockiness and bravado, he takes the time to talk about his sport to groups of the newly disabled...in a matter of fact, interesting way, that is its own uplift.
There's a bit of a sidetrack in Mark's story, where he is reconciled with his best friend, the driver who caused him to fly from a vehicle and sustain his life threatening injuries.
It's not a bad story, but probably the weakest link in the film.
Joe Soares is Zuban's antithesis, but is he? Unarguably the greatest player in the world, Joe was sidelined by Team USA as he got older and bitterly began to coach for Canada (although he lives in Tampa, Florida). Joe's opinionated, pushy, and a family man. We get to see him and his disdain for his son (who is a "non-athlete" and musician) before he has a heart attack, and the change in him after the heart attack leaves him feeling rather mortal. Joe never becomes a villain. We understand why Team USA is upset about his new allegiance, we understand why Joe did what he did. We can see his coaching skill in the way that his Canadian players respond to him. Joe is tough love personified.
When the teams and players are cemented in your mind, the directors introduce Keith Cavill, who has been newly introduced to the world of the quadriplegic. It is through Keith's story that we see how far these men have come; how daunting is the world when you are first forced to realize what kinds of challenges you will face for the rest of your life. Without giving you an emotional bath, the filmmakers show you what happens to Keith's mindset when he's first introduced to the world of quad rugby, and how it changes his perspective.
There are not enough fine words of praise for the crafting that went into this film, for the "acting" of the principals, for the tone, the camerawork, the script, the editing. The DVD features are outstanding for a documentary, and should not be missed, with perhaps the exception of the feature from the TV show "Jackass". This year, in feature length documentaries, Murderball goes up for the Oscar against what was a wonderful film, "March of the Penguins". But as good as "March" was, there is no question that this is the documentary film, indeed perhaps the film, of the year.
MURDERBALL is a documentary that follows the members of the US Wheelchair Rugby team, along with one EX-member who is now the coach for the Canadian team. (The game is referred to as "Murderball," but as one of the players remarks, "it's hard to market a sport named 'Murderball!'").
The requirements to be a team member: Quadriplegia. And an incredible hard-hitting and competitive spirit. (Most of us, my wife included... who IS wheelchair-bound due to multiple sclerosis, were under the impression that quadriplegics had NO use of their arms, but it would seem that many quadriplegics retain a certain degree of arm and upper-body function.)
The stars of this film are inspirational. Bob Lujano is a young man who lost his arms and legs to a horrible infection as a young boy. Sitting with a group of school children, he's asked by a little girl, "how do you eat pizza with your elbows?" He proceeds to show them, and there is no shock or revulsion. The children are all awe-struck and smiling as this man proves that you can make your life as normal as it can possibly be, if you try.
(How many people, given a pair of gnarled stumps for arms, would live out their lives being spoon-fed by others? Quite a few, no doubt.)
The "star" of the film, if there is one, is Mark Zupan, a 28-year-old who's life changed when the pickup truck driven by his best friend flew off the road... and he sailed into a canal --where he remained clinging to a branch, undiscovered for 14 hours. Zupan is the kind of guy who takes no crap from anyone. Even his high school buddies point out, "he was an a****** before the accident, and the accident didn't change him!" But it's
obvious that they, along with pretty much everyone else loves him, and during the course of the movie it becomes pretty clear why. He's a good friend to have.
Joe Soares is the FORMER team member who became the head coach of the US team's arch-rivals, Canada. The man is EXTREMELY tightly-wound, but despite the red-faced, screaming rants, there are some very tender moments shown between him and his young son. His son, who has NOT followed in his father's extreme-sports footsteps, somewhat to his dad's disappointment, is instead an academic high-achiever, and plays (of all things) the violin
in the school band. It is a testament to good parenting (and one of many grab-the-handkerchief moments!) to see how Soares supports his son.
The film should be shown to every high school class in America. People deal with the handicapped in very odd, and many times, disturbing ways. If enough people saw this, not only would it give people a better understanding of some of the struggles faced by the disabled, but it would also serve as an inspiration for all. (In fact, my wife hasn't been in our pool for over a year because of her fear that it wouldn't 'go well.' After seeing murderball, she's planning on going for a swim tomorrow!)
*** UPDATE: The swim went just fine, and in the year since, my wife has become FAR MORE confident about herself. She is still 100% wheelchair-bound, but it's something that people forget about in about 2 minutes BECAUSE of her terrific attitude. And MURDERBALL played a part.
*** UPDATE 2: We had the opportunity to go to a Wheelchair Rugby tournament in Tampa --and thought we MIGHT see someone we recognized. Well, we not only SAW, but had a chance to chat and hang out with MARK ZUPAN, SCOTT HOGSETT and ANDY COHN, among others. What a GREAT bunch of guys! This was months after the release of the DVD, so frankly they could have seen themselves as "stars," but you sure couldn't tell.
The highlight of the day came when Scott Hogsett asked us if we'd like to join them for dinner... and though our schedule wouldn't allow this, the mere fact that they asked just made our day. (Yeah, could you imagine one of the "mega-stars" asking that? Not in a million years!)
- Jonathan Sabin