Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Reviewing The Rocket

So you opened all of your presents and not everything was what you hoped, it happens. That damn aunt of yours has no taste. Once you bring back some of the stuff and have a few extra bucks, why not pick up The Rocket, the Maurice Richard movie?

The nice folks at Palm Pictures sent me a copy of the flick, which was released in Canada last year to amazing reviews. Now its my turn to take a look and spew my opinion, muah hahahaha!!

So, since I already said you should buy it, I obviously liked it ... although it does have its issues. I think the biggest is context; if you aren't Canadian you really don't get that he was a national hero. The special feature documentary included on the dvd, "A Tribute To Maurice Richard, The Rocket", is almost a must-watch first so non-Great White North viewers can truly understand how incredible a player/person/personality Richard was. Unfortunately the documentary is devoid of classic Richard material so you can't actually see his prowess on the rink, but it does help give some context for those not familiar with his impact; people in Montreal rioted when he was suspended at one point and worshipped him as a hero for his entire life.

The movie tries to show how much he meant to Montreal that with a few short moments recreating the sheer adoration Richard drew but I don't really think they work, likely because of a lack of grandeur due to likely budget and time constraints. Macleans Magazine called the movie "The Gladiator of hockey movies" but I would not make that comparison. Gladiator was able to use amazing computer effects to recreate ancient Rome; this movie relies on small sets and a lot of tight shots. Another prime difference stems from the personality of Russell Crowe's character, which allowed you to relate with the brave soldier with a heart of gold, and his fall and rise back to glory as a dynamic hero. Maurice Richard never thought of himself as such and never acted like that.

Judging by all of the accounts that I have read about Richard, Roy Dupuis did an utterly spectacular job filling Richard's all-too-humble skates. Richard was a determined, force of nature and a tortured soul who had the hopes, dreams and problems of French Canada placed upon his shoulders. But he was not one to turn and yell "Are you not entertained?" to a crowd of hundreds of thousands; he silently sulked and then eventually spoke through a newspaper column, as shown in the movie. I think that is something that makes it a bit harder to empathize with Richard, although it is of no fault of Dupuis or the director, Charles Biname.

There are issues with the movie that are Biname's fault. The musical score could have helped convey Richard's emotions and trials but Biname chose too often to go with natural sound or long pauses. He also used random camera angles (including a high, in-the-crowd view) during the hockey scenes that made it a little difficult to follow the action. I have to admit though that Miracle set an exceptionally high bar with me when it comes to that.

But like I said, its a great story that is being told, the original sweaters are gorgeous and the acting is quite good, even if you have to read subtitles to follow the French. The English-only version on the DVD sucks with overdubbed lines making it look like the old Saturday afternoon Fox kung fu movies.

As this is a primarily Rangers blog, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Sean Avery's appearance as one of those aforementioned actors. Sean plays Bob Dill, who is solely out there to take out Richard and gets his ass kicked. Seeing him throw racial slurs at the French Canadian superstar is pretty funny/interesting considering Avery has been accused of doing such several times in his own career. Dill, interestingly enough, put together numbers resembling Avery's own. I thought Sean did well but The Pensblog thought his appearance ruined the movie (read their review; I found it ... odd, to say the least).

Now for more good stuff; if you made it this far, you could have a chance to win a copy of the movie. First off, Palm Pictures has this flash game where high scores could earn dvds or even a Avery jersey. And secondly, I have a copy to give away!

To get your hands on that copy, I have a two-part trivia question. Richard was a humble fellow and believed that another right winger, who played at the same time and also wore #9, was a better player. Who was he, and which NHL team was the first to discover him and invite him to camp? Just post your answer in the comments and the first one to get both right, gets the dvd.

Rereading this, I realize I wrote a review of the movie without telling much of its contents (how I think reviews should be), but if you are one who doesn't like to watch a flick without knowing what is going to happen, here is a well-written piece that gives the details and has an interview with Dupuis. While I don't think you need to read that to enjoy the movie, I do believe that you at least need to understand who Richard was to get the whole picture.


Anonymous said...

Hi Scotty, and happy holidays! Is it too late to answer the trivia question? I believe it was Gordie Howe that The Rocket deferred to in the 50's. And it's a little-known fact that Mr. Hockey was originally a New York Ranger property! Or at least they had him at camp.

Scotty Hockey said...

You are correct! E-mail my your addy and I will send the dvd out to you!!

(sorry for the delay on this)