Maurice Richard

Also known as The Rocket
In French, with English subtitles (2005)

Lucille: "You shatter records, fill arenas, but the league doesn't protect you. Why? They protect every star player but you."

This is a period biopic about Quebecois hockey great Maurice Richard, starting and ending with the 1955 riots in Montreal when Richard was suspended unfairly for a fight he didn't start.

Maurice Richard was the epitome of the quiet, modest sports hero. He worked all day as a machinist, and played hockey at night. Hard to believe, considering how professional athletes are treated today, but Richard didn't even make enough money to buy his own home. Since French Canadians were treated like second class citizens, Richard also had to endure constant insults as well as physical attacks on the ice. The fact that he spoke little English but was interviewed in English made him look stupid. He literally lived the cliche: he had to be twice as good to go half as far.

Roy Dupuis turns in an excellent performance as Richard. Roy has always done an outstanding job conveying a great deal of emotion with very little expression, and that's Maurice Richard to a T. (Roy even resembles the real Maurice Richard, except in coloring; the dark contacts and short black hair made me feel a bit of a disconnect, because Roy didn't look like Roy.) Julie le Breton is also fine as Maurice's wife, Lucille, although it is basically a one-note part. The real dramatic relationship throughout the film is Maurice's with his coach, Dick Irvin (Stephen McHattie, who is also terrific).

Although the film's climax is somewhat anticlimactic, there are many moving moments. Maurice's stoicism in the face of such unfair treatment made it all the more effective when he finally did lose control. For me, the highlights of the movie were when the owner of the Canadiens told Maurice that he had just given him the greatest moment in hockey he'd ever seen, and Maurice literally burst into tears and sobbed uncontrollably. And Maurice's face when Dick Irvin congratulated his team on winning the Stanley Cup... in French.

Good news for English-speaking fans: There are English subtitles, of course. But the DVD extras, in French, also have English subtitling. That almost never happens.

Truthfully, I'm not much for sports movies, but this is a good one. Three stars,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

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