Red Army

Red Army ★★★★½

"Silly American filmmaker, you have no idea what Soviet hockey was like. Let me tell you what Soviet hockey was like."

I'm paraphrasing, but basically this is the attitude most of the talking heads have in Red Army, a great documentary on the Soviet hockey system.

In the first moments of Red Army, Viacheslav Fetisov, Soviet hockey legend gives the finger to director Gabe Polsky. Polsky's transgression: trying to get Fetisov off his cell phone so the interview can continue. It's an odd, refreshing, moment that breathes life into this film immediately.

Yes this is a talking head documentary, but these aren't your typical talking heads. These are members of Russian Hockey royalty and they are not in the least intimidated by an American Documentary filmmaker.

I have never been a great fan of hockey. Perhaps because it is so prominent in Canadaian culture, perhaps because I live in Toronto, home of the perennially disappointing Maple Leafs but I fled from it. But watching Red Army I felt like I was once again a kid sitting in the homes of my Uncles and my Grandparents watching the playoffs. Seeing the archival footage of anchormen Lloyd Roberston and Brian Williams (of the CBC not NBC) I was transported back to a time when the Soviets were a dominant force in the world, and in my childhood imagination.

If there was anywhere the Cold War truly became hot it was in sport. The movie opens with a clip of Ronald Reagan warning of the Soviet Union. The clip is likely from the 60s but it felt like one of his speeches from when I was growing up and he was president. I really felt like the world could explode. In a way in did with the fall of Communism in the USSR.

Red Army is terrifically entertaining as it details this time and details the struggles that the players had. Their coach was basically KGB, when they eventually played in the NHL a significant part of their salaries were tithed to the Soviet Government, and when they arrived in the NHL nobody seemed to want them there. Still though, they succeeded (or at least Fetisov did, and he is probably one of my favorite doc subjects ever). Because failure was not an option.

That's how Soviet hockey was.

And if you don't like that answer, well, you can go fuck yourself.

Block or Report

Chris liked these reviews