Rocket, the - Hab Trick
| Being a westerner of a certain age, Maurice Richard didn’t mean a lot to me. Gretsky is the “great one”, n’est pas? Even when I lived in Montreal I didn’t follow the Canadians too closely. It was the age of the Red Mile. Plus, all the “two solitudes” crap that Richard gets himself involved in means so little to the identity of Canadians west of Manitoba. What was The Rocket and all its baggage supposed to mean to me?
Well, it turns out it can mean quite a lot. Belgian director Charles Binamé has graduated from television with flying colours. The Rocket is a beautifully shot, riveting film that captures all the excitement and drama of hockey in a way that the Disney films Miracle and The Mighty Ducks just couldn’t do. Surprise it takes a Canadian production to make a good hockey film.
Binamé has tossed away all the tele-film crutches and shot himself a slick, cinematic film that drags you in and holds you despite what is a very traditional story. There is little irony in the story of Maurice Richard, a man painted as a very old-world style, faultless hero. This is well done myth making, identity creation and it’s the kind of film that brings an audience to its feet.
A lot of this has to do with the stars. Roy Dupuis has long ago demonstrated an impressive talent and charisma on screen and he’s perfectly cast as the tortured hero/martyr. It would have been easy for this role to turn into caricature, Maurice is presented so rosy, but Dupuis keeps that in check and allows him to be a bit more human.
Even better is the astounding Stephen McHattie, from Antigonish, as the Rocket’s coach Irvin who rides him hard and loves him beyond all else. He’s one of the few characters in the film that is allowed to be multidimensional. This is the kind of performance that gives audiences something real to watch.
The Rocket is good film making, great performances and a riveting (if familiar) story. Sounds like a winning hat-trick to me.