Located in the US Rust Belt, Charlestown is home of the hapless Chiefs, a losing Federal League hockey team whose games are poorly attended. To make money, the team's unknown owner makes its manager, Joe McGrath, do cheesy publicity much to the players' chagrin. Rumors abound among the players that if the local mill closes, the team will fold. Just before the official announcement is made, the team's aging player/coach, Reggie Dunlop, does get wind that the mill is indeed closing and that this season will be the team's last. Beyond efforts to reconcile with his wife Francine, who loves Reggie but doesn't love his career, Reggie begins to focus on how to renew interest in the team for a possible sale as he knows if the team folds, his hockey career is over. Without telling anyone of his plan, he begins a rumor that the owner is negotiating a sale with a city in Florida. He also decides that "goon" hockey - most especially using the untapped talents of the recently acquired childlike ... Written by
I grew up in south 'jersey when the Flyers were still the Broad Street Bullies and all lived on our side of the Walt Whitman Bridge. They had handlebar mustaches. Many spoke with thick French-Canadian accents and wore wide ties, jackets with lapels you could park a truck on, and more than the occasional leisure suit. Many were just kids when they were pulled from the farmlands of the North and found themselves in the middle of suburbia by day, and at night, playing "Old-time hockey" while the chanting and organ music echoed to the rafters. Now whether you played pro hockey like they did, or were on the semi-pro Johnstown Jets that inspired the crew here, there seems to be a prototype player who played a certain style of game for the rest of us to watch. Sadly, that era is long gone. Marketers and big business have left the game in smoldering ruins. But we still have Slapshot. It perfectly captures what the game used to be and the guys who used to play it. Paul Newman is incredible as Reggie Dunlop, the aging player-coach who seems to be the last guy to figure out his team is on the verge of folding. The fictional town has hit the skids so that means no more hockey team. But instead of going out with a whimper, Dunlop has a scheme to get his crappy team back in the standings and the fans in the stands. And as the plot develops there's locker-room talk that would make even today's teenagers shut up and take notes. Nancy Dowd's story, which she wrote after seeing her brother Ned play in the minors during his career (and parody in the movie as Ogie Oglethorpe) translates into a total classic. The raw banter between Newman and his GM, between the players -- literally all through the movie -- makes for the most quotable flick I know...but I have to be so careful where I can recite my favorites. One such place was out on the fishing boat of a hall-of-famer from the old Flyers. (It's rumored one of the characters in the movie was modeled directly from HIM.) Slapshot brought even this guy to his knees with hysterics. Just rehashing a few quotes from the movie triggered his REAL stories of his own team that won the Cup two years in a row, and then never again since. That's how well the movie tells the story of hockey. There's a lot of social commentary here, too, if you are into such a thing. Lots on relationships, male bonding, machismo and the like. Some of the subplots take the story off the ice for too long, and the movie tends to drag in spots, admittedly. But when play is on, the brutal scenes reach such a sublime level of violence all you can do is gape and laugh in astonishment. The players here have all become like Reggie himself: They don't seem to notice that they've gone too far and they are creating a goonathon just to fill arenas. Meanwhile, those with real talent get benched right along with the national anthem. It's pretty clear -- both on the screen and during the times when the movie was being made -- that Old Time Hockey was on its way out. But it didn't go with a whimper, either, and at least Slapshot was there to give it a send-off to remember.
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