Saturday, 12 June 2010

Maurice Richard: Review

What's it all about?:

A French-Canadian sports bio-pic about the life and career of legendary (in Canada, especially in Quebec) ice hockey player Maurice 'The Rocket' Richard. This film spans from his early days as a teenage factory machinist in the 1930's playing hockey whenever he could, his subsequent rise to fame and struggles with injury as a key member of the Montreal Canadiens, and his triumphal final season in which he led Montreal to its fifth Stanley Cup Championship trophy in a row. The film also deals with the discrimination faced by French speaking hockey players in the anglophone NHL, and also portrays Richard's suspension after retaliating against a linesman who was physically restraining him, which in turn believe it or not sparked the Richard Riot.
The ensuing riot in which 41 people were arrested, and 12 policeman and 25 civilians injured, caused an estimated $100,000 in damages and is seen by some to represent the beginning of the La Révolution tranquille, and marked a significant shift in Quebec Nationalism.

The Good:

This film pretty much swept the Genies (Canada's version of the Oscars) and won 9 awards out of 13 categories. However, of note is Roy Dupuis' performance as Richard, which deservedly won Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. Dupuis, who you may have seen in the recent Mesrine: L'instinct de Mort, thrives as the quiet, yet strong willed hockey player whose articles against the discrimination directed at the French speaking canadians often got him into trouble.
Excellently written by Ken Scott and well directed by Charles Binamé, the film also had a tremendous budget of $8,000,000 Canadian dollars, and it shows, all scenes were produced to be as true to reality as possible; and the production design, costumes, sound, and editing all accordingly won awards.
I should also add that the scene where Maurice Richard absolutely owns Sean Avery by knocking hilm down twice after being told to run away is a joy to watch.

The Bad:

Apart from having to concentrate to grasp the meaning of several québécois phrases, it would be fair enough to say that although not a 'bad' aspect, the film definitely has an esoteric appeal, and anyone who has little to no interest in hockey would do well to give this film a swerve. Having said that, the story of one individual struggling through life and sport to acheive respect and recognition is universal, e.g. Cinderella Man, Million Dollar Baby etc and if that's not your cup of tea, the secondary themes of a softspoken family man becoming a symbol for his people and overcoming bias on the way should be.

The Downright Ugly:

Nothing to report: a good old wholesome sports film.

Final Verdict:

A highly enjoyable film about one man overcoming adversity without seeming too hackneyed and clichéd, worth a watch for anyone who is interested in modern Canadian history, the importance of the French language, ethnic and cultural troubles or if you just plain enjoy 'boy done good' sports films.

For more info:

Release date: 2005
Directed by: Charles Binamé
Starring: Roy Dupuis, Julie Le Breton, Stephen McHattie
Country of Origin: Canada

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