With a day off on Sunday, I made it down to Portland again to get my arthouse fix. On the menu: Murderball, Sundance’s acclaimed documentary about the international sport of quadraplegic rugby.
I figure that because documentary films lack the hype-machine of major Hollywood releases, any one of them that breaks out commercially must be fantastic. Murderball keeps my theory intact. A compelling story of a little-known sport and the crazy characters who play it, Murderball satisfies all audience urges for sports rivalry, last-second plays to win, off-court drama and even caters to prurient curiosities about how people with limited use of their limbs can and do have sex.
The memorable personalities, most notably Joe Soares, the aging pioneer of the sport who defects to Canada after he is cut from Team U.S.A., and Mark Zupan, the tatooed, potty-mouthed bad-boy, leap from the screen. The filmmakers make a quiet case that, at least for certain personalities, suffering a traumatic injury does little to change the nature of who we are. Some people will never accept the frailty of the human body. It’s an irresponsible message, and an uplifting one.
I challenge those who bought the finale of Million Dollar Baby to watch Murderball.