The Good

A solidly packed DVD that features a veritable wellspring of extra material.

The Bad

It would have been nice if some packaging had been included with this DVD to give us more information on how we can follow the sport shown in this movie.

The brilliance behind Murderball is that the people handling the film didn’t relegate it to the art house, special interest audience. Rather, they skewed things a bit by going for that audience but also grabbing the MTV/X-Game crowd. Murderball highly athletic, highly brutal sport which can best be described as “quad rugby”. The film mainly focuses on Mark Zupan (the person behind the iconic image used to market this film), Scott Hogsett, Andy Cohn and Joe Soares. We see their lives both on the court and off, with the story of Soares being one of the most complex. He used to play for Team America (the team Zupan, Hogsett and Cohn are currently on), then Soares left the team and started coaching Team Canada. Throughout the film, everything is building up to the point where America and Canada are going to square off for the championships.

Murderball works because it just shows things how they are. Certainly, events have been edited and a story has been created out of reams of footage, but at the end of the film one gets the sense that we have been taken on a journey. This documentary gives us just enough information without beating us over our head, and I love that it doesn’t sentimentalize these character’s condition.

Features

Jackass Presents: Murderball; CNN Larry King Live Interview and Murderball: Behind the Game

Featuring such “Jackass Alums” as Johnny Knoxville and Steve-O, Jackass Presents: Murderball, is a like an episode of “Jackass” with the Murderball guys as guest stars. We see them drinking together and messing around in a bar, then we watch them play games like slamming into one another in the wheelchairs. While I think this sort of hurts the mystique of the actual movie, simply because everyone in this segment is acting like an idiot, nobody has ever accused “Jackass” of being anything other than an idiotfest anyway, right? CNN Larry King Live Interview features the Murderballers talking about their lives. If you have seen the documentary, one really doesn’t learn anything that new here, but it might be a nice primer before you’ve screened the movie. I loved seeing Larry King talk to these guys because you can tell that before this show he had no idea what Murderball was. Murderball: Behind the Game is a bonus feature that seems like it might have been taken out of the movie for time reasons. This is essentially an overview of the game and it explains why players like to play it, and what it has done for them in their lives. Nothing that amazing, but this could help a viewer who may have been lost while watching the movie.

Commentary Tracks; Joe Soares Update Interview and the New York City Premiere

The Commentary Tracks on this disc give us Jeff Mandel, Dana Adam Shapiro and Henry Alex Rubin. There is a separate commentary track featuring Mark Zupan, Scott Hogsett and Andy Cohn. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise but I liked the “player commentary” much better than the one by the filmmakers. I just found what Mandel and Co. had to say to be a bit too technical, while I really enjoyed listening to the knee jerk, off the cuff comments said by Zupan and his buddies. The Joe Soares Update Interview takes us into his life to show the viewers what he is doing now. Currently coaching Great Britain, he talks honestly about the film and his relationship with Mark Zupan. While I don’t think Soares or Zupan are “nice guys”, I certainly can understand why Soares doesn’t think this movie alone can define who he is. The New York City Premiere of the film is also an event where they give Keith Cavill his chair to play the sport of Murderball. I liked seeing this footage, especially because Joe Soares was there as well as Mark Zupan, but the audio on this extra feature was very much below par.

Deleted Scenes

There are 6 Deleted Scenes in total. These are “Foodfight”, “Softball”, “Frogs”, “Keith Baking”, “Joe Pool Ride” and “Blue Doo Wop”. I skipped around a lot on these scenes, mainly because I am not that big a fan of supplemental footage, especially for a documentary. My feeling is that watching extra footage for a movie of this nature could actually effect how I view it later, because I might see a cut scene in the movie that was in fact longer when it was captured in real life. That said, these scenes are all well put together and they make for a nice accessory to Murderball.

Video

Widescreen. They don’t say what kind of widescreen has been used for this DVD, but as this movie appears to be heavily shot on video, something tells me that the “black letterbox bars” were employed in post production. This movie looks a lot better on DVD than it did when I saw it in the theater. I guess the compression process of the disk, mixed with the small TV that I watched it on, most likely had something to do with it bumping up the look of this film. As this is a documentary, the lighting isn’t always great, but at the same time I am not sure that it needs to be. Much of this movie looks like it was captured on the fly, like traditional documentaries, and not a piece of reality programming. This too adds to this films immediacy and realness.

Audio

They don’t say what kind of audio has been employed for this movie, but as it is an “MTV Film” one can guess that things (except in a few spots) are very solid in the audio department. They also layer this movie with a hard driving soundtrack (akin to the kind of music that tattooed looking bruisers like Zupan seem to flock to), so right off the bat, once the credits start rolling, we know we aren’t going to see some kind of “feel good” film that panders to these guy’s condition any way, shape or form. This film is big when it needs to be big, small when it needs to be small and contemplative without ever bordering on being sappy.

Package

The front cover features a shot of the determined Mark Zupan as he plays the game of Murderball. Behind him are shots from the movie but just the image of him alone, playing the game, is strong enough and that’s probably why it has been used so much to promote this movie. The back features a well written description of this film, some small pictures capturing pivotal moments, a “Special Features” listing and a cast list. I really like that they have not packaged this DVD in the way that most documentary films are usually packaged. This is a hard, and at times, harsh film and at no time does anything about Murderball shy away from that.

Final Word

Murderball is such a well put together DVD that I think people should buy it as opposed to renting it. It is imminently watchable and seems as if it was made for multiple viewings. Also, by having the chance to rewatch this film one will be able to pick up on things that they might have missed. At only 86 minutes in length, this movie feels a lot longer, but in the best way because it is packed with a so much information. I said above that Zupan, Cohn and Hogsett are the main people in this film, but there are many other characters that are woven in and out of this story and each of them leaves a lasting impression.

You don’t have to be a sportsfan but this documentary certainly holds up as a Sports Film. Murderball is just a great movie. Period.