The Last Gladiators (2013)
Academy Award (R) Winning Director Alex Gibney examines the NHL's most feared enforcers while also exploring the career of Chris Nilan. (c) Official FB
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Critic Reviews for The Last Gladiators
In a way, this doc is Bully, grown up, and from the bully's perspective.
Even if you're not a hockey fan, Nilan is a modest and insightful guy.
The opening sections of this film play like a greatest-hits clip collection, but when Gibney delves deeper into Nilan's personality, it's a magnetic portrait of a rinkside Raging Bull.
Reflecting the sweep of aggression that swallowed the game throughout the 20th century, Gibney tackles his points smartly, laboring to communicate the thrill of combat and the shock of retirement.
Gibney celebrates hockey's fisticuff traditions while also recognizing how such brutality ultimately takes its greatest toll on those who perpetrate it.
Gibney, always a master of the documentary interview, gives us another captivating talking head in Chris Nilan.
It doesn't try to sell you on fighting in hockey, it just presents the environment, the personalities, and lets it all speak for itself...
Gibney deserves credit for making a hockey film that the uninitiated can watch with interest, and for focusing on an issue even some hockey fans can't make up their minds about.
Pretty or not, the stories of dropped gloves and smashed faces shed some clarity on the game's violence ...
At his best, Gibney focuses on his subject and then explodes it outward. But with "The Last Gladiators," he's taken a rare misstep. There is undoubtedly a great story within the bruised history of NHL enforcers. Why, though, did he choose Chris Nilan's?
Audience Reviews for The Last Gladiators
"The Last Gladiators" is a documentary that seeks to explore the careers and lives of various enforcers in the NHL while carefully walking the line between entertainment and expose. Of special interest here is Chris Nilan who played and fought 13 seasons for the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Boston Bruins. While talking to plenty of his friends and family, the movie also interviews some of Nilan's fellow enforcers like Marty McSorley and the late Bob Probert. But the documentary should have also taken the time to talk to Mike Milbury who usually loves the sound of his own voice and could have provided perspective from three different angles.
That speaks to the documentary's central flaw, in that in solely following Nilan around, it is not able to fully explore whether or not his post-career life is typical of former NHL enforcers, not allowing for any new insights in the bargain.(Strangely enough the documentary fails to bring up concussions at all.) For example, sad as it sounds, many retired people sit around all day watching television. And many athletes not named Michael Strahan have a hard time adjusting to regular life after retiring from being a professional athlete. With Nilan, you have a chicken and egg debate in whether he was aggressive to start out or did hockey make him even more so? In any case, I do not think he would have been better off without hockey, as it is nearly impossible to say what his alternate life would have been like.
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