Where There’s a Wheel, There’s a Way

I’m still not sure how murderball or “Wheelchair Rugby” is played, but at least, through the documentary “Murderball,” I’m aware of it now. It is a rigorous sport that features men in specialized wheelchairs attempting to drive a ball into the end zone or goal. The sport is played worldwide and annually, there’s world championship game that decides which nation has the best team.

In all honesty, I thought “Murderball” was simply a sports-info documentary, but I was pleasantly surprised that it transcends the game. What the documentary amounts to is a remarkable collection of human stories. Its featured group of quadriplegic men is like a cast of characters a genius writer would dream of making. There’s the aggressive Joe Soares, a pissed American who wants to revenge towards America by coaching Team Canada. And for contrast, Joe has a son who’s not athletic but educationally gifted. There’s Mark Zuban – who has the personality of an asshole, even before he was confined to a wheelchair. There’s also Chris Igoe, Mark’s guilt-haunted best friend, who is immensely responsible for Mark’s disability. There’s Bobby who dreams of flying. And more guys who talk about being able to do “it,” debunking myths that they can’t “rise to the occasion.” Probably my favorite is Keith, who’s fresh from a disastrous motorbike accident. As we learn, the hardest part for the quadriplegic is the first two years of rehabilitation.

The thing is – these guys come across pretty normal. Of course, my first reaction is pity, but with these men of overwhelming will and personality, I can’t help but overcome any sorry feeling I feel for them. In fact, they make me feel inadequate for their human spirit is hardly as brittle as mine. “Murderball” is indeed a wonderful and memorable documentary. The stories of these men don’t only come across as inspirational, but also very real. My reaction went beyond “Wow, I can’t believe what they overcame after everything they went through.” These men know they’re accomplished. What moves me is their strength to motivate others. There’s a difference between not being helpless and being helpful.

Grade: A-

Mark Zupan, Joe Soares, Keith Cavill, Andy Cohn, Scott Hogsett, Chris Igoe, and Bob Lujano
Directed by
Henry Alex Rubin
Dana Adam Shapiro
Rated R for language and sexual content