Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on February 25, 1977
Directed by George Roy Hill
Written by Nancy Dowd
Cast: Paul Newman, Michael Ontkean, Lindsay Crouse, Jennifer Warren, Jerry Houser, Strother Martin, Melinda Dillon, M. Emmet Walsh, Swoosie Kurtz, Jeff Carlson, Steve Carlson, David Hanson, Ned Dowd, Andrew Duncan, Paul Dooley
There really aren’t that many hockey movies out there, and less than half of those are comedies, so I think it’s safe to say that Slap Shot is one of the best, a scathingly hilarious look at a minor league team in a dying factory town, and their season-long on- and off-ice exploits as they try to keep their team, the Charlestown Chiefs, from folding when the current season ends.
A feisty Paul Newman is surprisingly believable as the Chiefs’ leader and senior player, who concocts a story to raise the spirits of his players and keep them motivated, and in the process turns the team into a winner and gate attraction with the help of such tactics as fighting, rough play and torment, and the mid-season acquisition of the Hanson Brothers, a trio of bespectacled siblings who were immediately looked upon as man-child embarrassments by their teammates. That is, until they hit the ice for the first time, and made ‘putting on the foil’ a hockey catchphrase for years to come.
From a serious standpoint, Slap Shot was also a reflection of the state of hockey at the time, and as the Chiefs transitioned from losing to winning using their new-found style of play, the film could also be considered a statement of sorts against the growing hostility of the game; inspiration for the Chiefs could easily have come from the Philadelphia Flyers teams of the mid-’70s, the ‘Broad Street Bullies’ who antagonized and intimidated their way to two Stanley Cup championships.
First and foremost, however, this was a hockey comedy, and considering the films line-crossing levels of profanity, on-ice brutality, and off-color conversations, it’s a small shock to discover that the screenplay was written by a woman: Nancy Dowd, who spent a season traveling with the minor league Johnstown Jets (her brother Ned was a winger for the team) and translated her experiences into a first-rate laugh riot of a sports story.
It’s raunchy, it’s funny, and with actual minor league arenas and Johnstown players adding authenticity (and Newman and Michael Ontkean boasting hockey experience from their younger days), Slap Shot is not only a perfect film for fans of the game, but also an honest representation of life as a minor league hockey player in the 1970s. (8/10)