Slap Shot

Film #1 in the can! – Only 99 left to go.

ImageTonight’s film was SlapShot, a 1977 Paul Newman and Michael Ontkean film. Wait. Michael Ontkean… why do we know him? ——-That’s it! Sheriff Harry S. Truman of the Twin Peaks police force. Not a face I expected, but as a Canadian, a film about Hockey probably felt like home.

What about a plot?

Sure, we know what’s happening, The Chiefs are a failing hockey club representing a failing town. But does story = meaning? Let me try to work this out with a little writing: With a record losing streak, there’s not much hope for the Charleston Chiefs or their aging Captain to go out at the top of their game. Instead, the club cuts expenses and preps itself for its imminent demise. As a last effort the manager brings in a trio of apparent losers with thick bottle-cap glasses to usher the squad as it slowly circles the drain.

All the players are raging alcoholics and their love lives are going no better than their hockey game. Newman finally decides to step in and change things through instigating a series of fights by taunting the opposing team and even his own, setting the stage for a psychological victory over their opponents that leads them to a string of Chief’s wins. All this plays out as Newman spins the story of the team’s sale to St. Petersburg, Florida. None of this has any basis in fact, but along with some needling from Newman, it does motivate the players.

ImageA sub-plot follows Newman’s quest to identify the team’s owner and persuade him (who turns out to be a her) to go through with a sale now that the team is actually performing well enough to garner attention.

Not to get bogged down in retelling the story, let’s just say that nothing much goes as planned and the team is destined for disbandment to provide a nice tax write-off for the owner. Newman has some more struggles (his wife is leaving, his friendships are deteriorating) and then he finally winds up questioning the meaning of hockey itself.

Is it a goon’s game? or is it a game of skill? This has got to be a theme the film purports to address, but what’s the answer? In the end, it’s a goon’s game. Our guys can finally let go and enjoy their new, tough identities and this lets them win the day.

Or is Slap Shot about Newman’s character? He’s growing and discovering what’s important to him, what legacy he will leave behind. If that’s it, then we find out that what’s important is winning by any means necessary.

so, Is that really it?

Perhaps it is. And if so, then the film is a success. It was certainly fun to watch. There was a good bit of violent fighting on the ice, a sprinkling of T&A to keep you interested through the ‘talky’ scenes. The hockey was good enough that you never spent time noticing it, and realistic enough due to the lack of any noticable stunt-double action. I guess if you’re looking for anything more, looks somewhere else.

Slap Shot earns a 7.2 from imdb and an 88% from rotten tomatoes.

I’d call it a good guy movie, definitely grab a beer and stick to it if you ever find it playing, but don’t go too far out of your way to get it.

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