“We all know how to play hockey — just play it smart!”
The coach (Paul Newman) of a failing New England hockey team encourages his players to employ violent tactics in an effort to revive attendance at games.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Paul Newman Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary’s review of this cult hockey film by director George Roy Hill is generally favorable. He notes that he’s glad it “doesn’t presume to attack today’s hockey/sports fan for demanding that violence be part of the game” given that “the movie itself aims to please viewers… by including much preposterously brutal sports action”. He argues that “the more violent, the funnier it is”, and notes that Nancy Dowd’s script (based on tape recordings made by her brother in his hockey team locker room) “received much attention because it contained more profanity, sexual content, and brutality than had ever been contained in a screenplay written by a woman”. He praises the “quirkiness of her characters” and the “unexpected ways in which they act and converse with one another”, and argues that “Newman gives one of his most interesting performances” (indeed, he nominates Newman as Best Actor in his Alternate Oscars book).
While I’ll admit to being mildly amused by some of the on-ice tactics employed by the “Hanson brothers” (fictional characters so beloved and infamous they actually have their own Wikipedia entry), I have a hard time sharing Peary’s overall admiration for the film. The “quirky” characters — Newman included — are largely unlikable and sloppily written, with Ivy Leaguer Michael Ontkean and his wife (Lindsay Crouse):
particularly underused and poorly conceived. Meanwhile, the film’s reasonably intriguing central comedic premise — about a hockey team turning to brutal tactics as a means of financial survival — never goes anywhere interesting. Despite its status as a serious cult favorite, all-purpose film fanatics can feel free to skip this one.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A few mildly amusing sequences on the ice
- Dede Allen’s impressive editing
No. This one’s only a must for hockey fanatics.