The Rocket: The Legend of Rocket Richard

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Palm Pictures

This painfully earnest sports biopic tells the story of Maurice Richard, the legendary hockey player from Quebec who enjoyed a landmark career in the NHL for two decades, leading the Montreal Canadiens to eight Stanley Cups in the 1940s and '50s. While "The Rocket: The Legend of Rocket Richard" will appeal mostly to hockey fans already familiar with the subject matter, it's a well-made, inspirational effort that beautifully conveys its period and milieu. It also boasts an excellent and impressively athletic performance by star Roy Dupuis, whose uncanny resemblance to Richard already has been exploited in a television miniseries.

The film, directed by Charles Biname and the winner of no fewer than nine Genie Awards, is receiving its U.S. theatrical premiere at New York's Cinema Village.

Depicting Richard's life from his working-class early years -- when he was deemed too fragile to play the physically demanding sport -- to the 1955 riot in Montreal after he was handed a suspension by the league, the film painstakingly and movingly examines the prejudice from NHL officials and players suffered by French-speaking Canadians.

Reminiscent of such similarly themed films as "Cinderella Man" in its depiction of a impoverished underdog rising to the top, the film beautifully re-creates the period in which it is set, its visual look particularly aided by Pierre Gill's atmospheric lensing.

Determined to cover nearly every aspect of its subject's lengthy career, "The Rocket" does become a little repetitious in the process. Relieving the occasional bouts of dramatic tedium are the superbly staged hockey sequences, which vividly depict the brutally violent aspects of the sport in its primitive, pre-helmet days.

Hockey fans will be particularly gratified by the presence of numerous current NHL stars participating in the action, including Vincent Lecavalier, Ian Laperriere, Pascal Dupuis and Sean Avery.
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