Murderball (15)



Documentary (2004)
85mins US

Director: Dana Adam Shapiro, Henry Alex Rubin
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

A life-affirming documentary focusing on the members of the US Paralympic wheelchair quad rugby team and their quest for glory on and off the court from 2002 to 2004. In particular, the film spotlights outspoken player Mark Zupan, who is utterly fearless when he takes to the court, and arch-rival Joe Soares who was dropped from the American squad and subsequently defected to the Canadian team.

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LondonNet Film Review

A Hard Knock Life
Murderball shrugs off the stereotypes and takes quad rugby by the balls...

From the very beginning, this enthralling documentary sets out its no-holds-barred approach, and you're hooked. Just as the players of Quad Rugby expect and give no quarter, so does this film which will certainly serve as an eye-opener. You will sit up and take notice of a part of sport that is frequently overlooked and stereotyped. And it's much more besides. Stories of human courage and tackling adversity come thick and fast, as do the laughs.

Bookended by two showpieces of the international Quad Rugby calendar, the 2002 World Championships and the Paralympics in 2004, the documentary focuses on Team USA, Team Canada and the fearsome rivalry between them. We meet the two dominant personalities of the teams, Mark Zupan (the USA team spokesman) and Joe Soares (ex-USA star and Team Canada coach), and see their lives on and off the field. Joe begins the documentary neglecting his family due to his obsession with the sport, while Zupan still hasn't reconciled with his best friend Chris Igoe, who was driving the car when Zupan was injured.

At the same time we are introduced to Keith Cavill, who is still in the early stages of recovery. As Zupan and his team-mates speak candidly to the camera about suicidal rage, get macho about sex, drink hard, train hard and play pranks on unsuspecting hotel staff, we see how the idea of Quad Rugby and Zupan's enduring spirit help Keith believe that he does have a future.

The documentary works so well because it is carefully and concisely structured. Weaving through the insights and perspectives of numerous friends and family, it never loses its way, gets lost in tangents or tries to sugar-coat a sensitive topic with political correctness. This is helped by the subjects themselves being so frank and open in the way they reveal what it's like to be a member of the society which patronises and segregates them. It's never sensational and remains refreshingly objective for a documentary; it simply tells it how it is. These people don't want or need pity...unless it helps them get the girls.

As the team competes and the stakes become higher, you are carried by the energy and the belief of these men who want nothing more than to beat the opposition. Fast editing, inspired guerrilla documentary camera techniques and a clever sound track add punch and brutality during the Quad Rugby matches. As it draws you in and makes you root for the players, you can see why the sport was christened Murderball.

Will Robson


London Cinemas

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Rest of UK and Irish Cinemas

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From Friday 19th May
To Thursday 25th May

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From Friday 26th May
To Thursday 1st June

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UK cinemas this week.


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