The Rocket or Maurice Richard, the biographical story of hockey legend Maurice Richard, is the best sports biography I have ever seen. It is also the best movie that uses sports to highlight historical bigotry I have ever seen. It is the best sports movie I have ever seen.
A poor machinist in the slums of Quebec, trying to do his part for the War effort during World War Two, Maurice Richard decides to try out for the Canadiens hockey team. His amazing talent wasn't enough, though; there were concerns that he was just too frail for hockey. After an extended time of not playing hockey, the Canadiens put him on the ice where he becomes the legend every hockey player studies. He struggles with the uncertainty of his job and supporting his wife and children. During his rise to fame, it is brought to his attention that the French speaking hockey players and citizens are being treated as second class citizens. Using his fame, and with some trepidation, he decides if he is going to be part of the movement for equality or another quiet French-Canadian who accepts the status quo.
The Rocket is not an uplifting, heartwarming, blood pumping movie shallow in plot, like most sports movies; it is a slower-moving, complex and dramatic biography supplemented by exciting hip checks, high sticking and the occasional fight. The pacing is like a train going over a mountain, patience is required to go up but your patience is rewarded when you have an exciting trip down the mountain. There is more plot than hockey and a person who doesn't care about hockey will still enjoy the dramatic feelings and settings cultivated in The Rocket.
The Rocket is as much about the time that Maurice Richard lived in, as it is about him personally. For those of us not familiar with general World War Two Canadian History, this film gives the audience a brief insight into internal strife during that time in the peaceful giant to the north. Using such an icon to display the times is a tired way to tell history but in The Rocket, it seems more natural. Richard is not glorified as beyond human or hero worshiped. He struggles with the people of his country, the same way they do.
The acting in The Rocket is hard hitting (pun intended), and will hip check (I'm not ashamed to make hockey puns) your emotions when you aren't expecting it. Roy Dupuis, who plays hockey megastar Maurice Richard, is a quiet storm, rolling over the hills of emotion. Julie LeBrenton, who plays Lucille Richard, Maurice's wife, performance is like a hurricane blowing in without mercy or regard. Her performance is a powerful triumph. No, in case you were wondering, they don't let the professional hockey players act much, thank you director Charles Binamé for making a thoughtful decision.
The Rocket is beautiful. It's dark and grainy feeling leaves you feeling a little dirty in an industrial way, but intrigued and curious.
In our house, we wouldn't dream of wasting our entertainment money or time on baseball or basketball. We probably could be bothered to see football on someone else's dime, if there wasn't paint to watch dry. What we will do is climb a stack of chairs to change the channel at a sports bar during baseball playoffs to watch hockey because we are a hockey family, through and through. If you've never been to the Shark Tank in San Jose, you just haven't lived. So believe me when I say the hockey in The Rocket is exceptionally fun to watch and technically correct. It makes sense because all of the hockey scenes are played with National Hockey League players. That's right, they don't pretend to play hockey, they actually play professional hockey! If you are a hockey fan you'll see faces you recognize, like Mike Ricci of the San Jose Sharks. Even if you aren't a hockey fan, you'll enjoy the hitting and bleeding.
If you love great hockey, see The Rocket. If you love great writing, see The Rocket. If you love phenomenal acting, see The Rocket. If you aren't a complete idiot, see The Rocket. Just see The Rocket or I'll see you in the boards!