Murderball is a documentary about wheel chair or quadriplegic rugby, a contact sport for athletes who have some significant disability in all four limbs that was originally called “Murderball.” In fact, it's as much demolition derby as it is rugby.
This riveting MTV production expertly crosses two genres that routinely explore the human spirit.
The first is disability movies like the Sea Inside, Coming Home , My Left Foot, and The Mighty. Usually these celebrate the spirit and mind/heart that survives inside the disabled individual with the notable exception of the "Jane Fonda does guy in wheelchair" section of Coming Home. In addition, they are almost always painfully politically correct.
The second genre is the competition/sports docudrama. Most recently, Spellbound and Mad Hot Ballroom became unlikely docuhits by ferreting out the competitive fire in venues that looked nothing like football. In this genre, the competition becomes a metaphor for life, triumph, etc. and all the kids wind up being loveable. Murderball crosses the two genres then stomps on both of them.
Murderball focuses on three individuals. Mark Zupan, is the star of the U.S. team, who is equal parts fierce warrior in his chosen sport, spokesperson for both the sport and the possibilities of life beyond a life changing accident, and occasional philosopher.
Joe Soares is the Bobby Knight of the sport, a man who would have been a great athlete had it not been for polio, but became a great athlete anyway. Soares is so driven that it doesn’t just border on demonic, you expect him to sprout wings and fly around the gym like some devil beast who then rips his opponents hearts out and eats them. The drive defines him and lets him transcend his body yet it also is shown to limit him as a father and a husband. Soares, once a great player, is forced out of the game by his own physical degeneration and instead of taking the news gracefully vows revenge against his long dominant U.S. team by coaching Team Canada.