reggie dunlop

Slap Shot (1977) Review  
The undisputed greatest hockey movie of all time

Slap Shot is directed by George Roy Hill and follows Reggie Dunlop (played by Paul Newman), the coach of a minor league hockey team- The Charlestown Chiefs. With a never ending losing streak, and the imminent closure of the local factory, Dunlop knows that he needs to do something to save the team. Thrilled by the violent playing style of the new players- the childlike, glasses wearing Hanson brothers- and their talent for drawing crowds, Dunlop encourages his team to fight, much to the displeasure of teammate Ned Braden (Michael Ontkean). Meanwhile, Dunlop befriends Bradens alcoholic wife, Lily (Lindsay Crouse), and tries to maintain a relationship with his own ex wife. 

Written by Nancy Dowd, the film is based on the experiences of her brother Ned Dowd, who played for the Johnstown Jets at the time: with many members of the team making appearances in major and minor roles- most notably the Carlson brothers playing their remarkably true-to-life film counterparts, the Hansons. 

Amongst the bloody play, and crude language, the heart of this film lies in its sarcastically genius script. From the sly, raunchy humour of Paul Newman to the clueless humour of the Hansons, the comedy still retains its wit years later, and the characters are all iconic, for their hilarious quotes. While the highlight of the film is the Hansons- who steal every scene they’re in- the subplot involving Lily, the struggling hockey wife of Braden, is also highly entertaining. While her humour is more subtle and quiet, she is still funny none the less, and never feels like she is slowing down the main hockey action. 

The minimalist soundtrack is simple, but memorable with a few good uses of Fleetwood Mac, Elton John and Leo Sayer. The repeated use of ‘Right Back Where We Started From’ by Maxine Nightingale as an upbeat anthem to the teams travels will have you humming it on repeat, and forever associating it with the film. 

While not succeeding at first- mainly due to the NHL’s objection to its focus on hockey violence- Slap Shot eventually gained momentum and became one of the most iconic sports movies of all time. 40 years later, the Carlsons still draw crowds at games, reciting lines and ‘putting on the foil’, and the film is regularly mentioned by commentators. A staple on NHL buses and in locker rooms, most hockey players and fans alike can quote their favourite lines (if not most of the script), word for word. The true testament to Slap Shots’ brilliance is its endurance and the legacy it has left on the world of hockey and comedy filmmaking.