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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Cindy Prascik's Review of Red Army

Dearest Blog: Since this weekend's cinema options ranged from "meh" to "no way," I took the opportunity to jump on a little gem that passed by my cinema altogether: Red Army.

Not sure if it's possible to spoil a documentary, so I'll make no claims on the spoiler front.
Red Army documents the glory years of the Soviet hockey juggernaut of the late 1970s to late 1980s, as experienced by its players.

As is the case with most documentaries, your interest in the subject matter will, to some degree, determine your enjoyment of the finished product. A lifelong hockey lover, I'm almost too sentimental to write about Red Army, but I figure I owe it to one of the best movies I've seen in awhile to try.

Red Army focuses primarily on stellar defenseman Slava Fetisov. While Fetisov is undoubtedly one of the greatest players ever, he's a churlish interview. He's smug about the good, sulky about the bad, contentious when asked anything that strikes him wrong, and repeatedly cuts off the interviewer to take telephone calls. Fetisov's first Olympic appearance was in 1980, and, despite his many, many accomplishments since, that shocking loss to the USA (which went on to win gold) clearly still stings. For me as an American, it's odd to see our Miracle on Ice reduced to an unpleasant footnote!

In stark contrast to Fetisov's sullen stroll down memory lane, Canadian legend Scotty Bowman seems almost amused when recounting how poorly the NHL's best stacked up against those Soviet behemoths in exhibition contests.

Always sport runs parallel to politics, and the film delves into the players' brutal living and training regimen in the USSR, where their success was considered an important vindication of the Soviet system. Aside from 1980, Fetisov also gets emotional about clashes with former teammate and best friend Alexei Kasatonov (a relationship that eventually was mended) and coach Viktor Tikhonov (erm...not so much). It may be difficult for today's fans to imagine the National Hockey League without its Ovechkins and its Malkins, but Fetisov's contemporaries had a rough go breaking into the League, and even Ladlena Fetisov tells of being ostracized by her fellow NHL wives. These days Fetisov--the first Soviet player to earn an NHL contract whose proceeds he wasn't required to share with his government--has returned to Russia and seems almost wistful about the system he was instrumental in dismantling.

Red Army runs a quick 76 minutes and is rated PG13 for "thematic material and language."
Red Army is an outstanding documentary that will certainly be a sentimental favorite for those of us who remember, and that can't help but make new fans of those who don't.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Red Army gets eight and a half.

Until next time...

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