For me, sports movies are okay. Like all genres, they have their good ones, and their bad ones. Who would have thought that one of the best sports movies is actually an anti-sports movie? This film is this one- a nice little gem from the 70s that really exemplifies the zeitgeist of the era with it's crude language, bloody fighting, and general boorish nasty edge and nature.
The plot concerns a washed up veteran hockey and coach (who's not really good at either) who tries to take his awful, struggling minor league team and turn them around into popular winners, which he starts to do once he discovers that the audience reacts positively to goonish behavior. He's a fascinating guy to watch because the skills he lacks as a player and coach are made up for by the fact that he's a skilled con man who is good at manipulating people, especially other players.
Their team, the Charlestown Chiefs, is not the only one struggling. Besides looking at sports, the film also touches upon the current events of the time by addressing the dire situation of late 1970s industrial towns in the Northeast. The local mill is on the verge of closing, and, should that happen, the hockey team is likely to go too. This little detail is something I appreciated because it adds more to the film, but also helps cement it as a cultural timepiece, giving insight into what the world was like at that time.
So yeah, the film is dated to an extent, and the vulgarity and rawness of things aren't quite as shocking, but I still found the film fresh and eye opening because of the content. This film is undeniably a product of the 70s, and I think it's all the better as a result.
The cast are great. Paul Newman reunites with George Roy Hill (this time without Redford) and he is awesome as coach/player Reggie Dunlop. The guy is a mess, but yet, despite his attitude and actions (and the attitudes and actions of his team), you can't help but like these guys and root for them, even though you should feel otherwise. Supporting him are Strother Martin, Michael Ontkean, and tons of actual pro and minor leaguers.
Give this one a shot. It's entertaining, funny (though I don't think it was supposed to be a comedy), has wonderful music, and is a great look at the wild side of sports.