Murderball - or quad rugby as is more delicately, officially known - involves teams of quadriplegic menin souped-up wheelchairs ramming the hell out of each other on a basketball court. This docuimentary follows the US and Canada as they prepare for Athens 2004, appraising disabled life in frank style.
With alarming disregard for their remaining functioning limbs, wheelchair-bound quadriplegics smash into each other at high velocity in the opening of this kinetic documentary about a little-known sport and the men who play it.
Propelled with the drive of a sports flick, Murderball largely focuses on the bitter rivalry of two men: the US quad-rugby team’s current star player, and his predecessor now coaching arch-rivals Canada. But the real fascination lies in the eye-opening examination of life in a chair. As the film strips away the layers of delicacy with which the able-bodied treat the disabled (even the practicalities of sex are discussed at length), a mirror is held up to our preconceptions about the physically impaired. Yet perhaps the most amazing discovery is that despite their traumatic external transformations, these guys seem unchanged internally: they were flag-waving, all-American, ultra-competitive jocks before, and they remain so after.
There are faults in construction, with fascinating strands never fully explored. But no structural failures can dampen the impact of witnessing the spirit and joie de vivre of these people to whom disability is their making, not breaking. When the credits roll, one’s own petty concerns don’t quite have the same ring.
A leftfield sports documentary that’s as insightful and thought-provoking as it is fast and furious.
Reviewed by Steve O'Hagan