An engrossing sports move, The Rocket is an above par genre piece, sold by fantastic performances and realistic hockey scenes. Dealings off the ice are an intriguing look at the NHL during a rough period in the mid-'40s, and Maurice Richard's personal issues make for fine cinema.
The Rocket flawlessly captures the style of hockey from the era, shot from both bleacher seats and on the ice. The smooth camera moves place the viewer in the game at the ice level, and attention to detail is superb. Game sequences are typically short, as the film chooses to focuses on Richard’s personal dealings, including a growing hatred for the treatment of French Canadians.
Richard is driven to the point of breakdown by stress and a growing popularity he doesn’t understand. His wife, played wonderfully by Julie LeBrenton, has extensive screen time. Sadly, her scenes typically devolve into worry that echoes any other sports movie you can think of. Her character never feels fully developed.
Roy Dupuis handles the Richard role beautifully, even though he was a man of few words. Dupuis takes each scene as his own, effectively conveying the required emotion even without words. Later scenes of racial tensions separate this from other hockey films, and it’s Dupuis’ performance that sells them.
Any hockey fan should be tracking down The Rocket. It’s a rare look inside a shaky NHL era where money was tight, and the entire organization was on rough ground. Richard was the star they needed, and this film is a worthy tribute to this unforgettable and influential player.
This low key transfer is typically muted in color or intentionally grainy. This DVD preserves these style choices perfectly. Detail is high during close ups, while some distracting aliasing occasionally crops up. Mild compression is a spotty issue, but noticeable.
Game scenes fill this 5.1 mix. Cheers can be heard from all angles. Bass is absent, even when the hits are brutal. Dialogue is clean and audible at all times. It’s hardly demo material, yet this disc is a solid performer.
Extras begin with a 22 minute piece A Tribute to Maurice Richard, The Rocket. Some behind the scenes footage is inserted between former players and the cast discussing the man that influenced them. Sadly, there is little archival footage featured, so there are no quotes from Richard himself before he passed in 2000.
Deleted scenes run for six minutes, and sadly, have a director’s commentary running over them with no choice to turn it off. It’s hard to understand the scenes if you can’t hear them. Loads of trailers finish the extras menu.
Filmed in its original French and English dialogue, the movie of course offers subtitles for non-French speaking people. Oddly, there’s no way to turn of the subtitles for those scenes that are in English. You’re stuck with captions the entire movie.