Bob Luiano

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Murderball Review


Extraordinary
Another title for Murderball might have been Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Quadriplegics... But Were Afraid to Ask. From the opening scene, showing athlete Mark Zupan changing out of his regular pants into athletic shorts without benefit of movement in his legs, the nuts and bolts of a quadriplegic's life come to light. And though the sport he suits up for may have undergone a name change from "murderball" to the less-grim moniker "quad rugby," it's still a fast-paced, brutal contest that serves as the jumping off point for this fascinating documentary about the lives of some amazing competitors.

The film opens in Sweden with the 2002 Wheelchair Rugby World Championships. In rapid-fire succession we're introduced to the players and the rules. We learn how the competitors' wheelchairs are outfitted like gladiators' chariots, with steel plating designed to withstand any impact. Point values are assigned each player commensurate with the level of their disability (the most literal form of handicapping) and only a limited point total can be in the game at any time. The athletes are then unleashed onto a regulation basketball court where they proceed to slam, block, and swarm the opposition in an attempt to move the ball from one end to the other.

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