Slap Shot (1977)

slap shot poster 1977 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Different Paul Newman, Hanson Brothers

Kind of all over the place at points

Movie Info

Movie Name: Slap Shot

Studio: Kings Road Entertainment

Genre(s): Sports/Comedy

Release Date(s): February 25, 1977

MPAA Rating: R

slap shot hanson brothers

The Hanson Brothers bring the pain…they’ll MMMBop you upside the head!

The Charlestown Chiefs are a minor-league hockey team with no prospects.  When Charlestown’s factory shuts down, the writing is on the wall and the Chiefs could be history.  The Chiefs’ coach Reggie Dunlop (Paul Newman) has other plans…if winning doesn’t work, making his team into a bunch of thug killers might.  Inspired by the arrival of the Hanson Brothers (Jeff Carlson, Steve Carlson, David Hanson), the Chiefs are out to sculpt a new image for themselves, and they’re using their fists to do it!  While Ned Braden (Michael Ontkean) objects to this new approach, Reggie banking on a sale and it just might work.

Directed by George Roy Hill, Slap Shot is a sports comedy film.  Released to mixed reviews initially, the film gained a cult status and is now often considered one of the best sports films of all time.

Slap Shot was a major hole in my cult movie list.  It seemed like everyone had seen Slap Shot, and I figured it was time to rectify that problem.  The movie is a lot of fun, but it is also all over the place.

slap shot chiefs bus paul newman

The Chiefs are going places with their fists

The movie feels like it is the anti-sports sport movie.  The script was based on many real events and the scriptwriter Nancy Dowd originally considered making a documentary.  Throughout the film, the Chiefs’ bad behavior stokes the crowds and gets farther and farther away from the sport.  Hockey stops resembling a game and starts to resemble pro-wrestling where winning the crowd is the ultimate goal.  In most movies like this, the characters realize the errors of their way and play the game for real at the end.  This happens, but it doesn’t work out and violence wins out.  It is a kind of odd message for a “sports” movie and at the time of the release the NHL was afraid the blowback from the movie could hurt the League.

It is also a different type of movie for Paul Newman.  Newman normally lays on the charm in movies that aren’t straight comedies.  Here, the Newman charm is pretty skeevy, and despite being the lead of the team, he doesn’t come off as a great guy…it feels like he’s more of an opportunist than a team player, much less a coach.  The real fire of Slap Shot comes from the fan favorite Hanson brothers whose fervor for cracking heads brings the comedy.  The movie has decent star power, but the unknowns steal the show.

slap shot ending michael ontkean paul newman

The Chiefs are the Bad News Bears of the ice

I am always impressed by sports movies that are done well.  First, the actors have to pull off the sport and make it look believable (the film cast a lot of real hockey players), and it has to make the sport exiting to those who might not follow the sport while not being an insult to fans.  Slap Shot gets this perfectly and the slick minor league look of the film works.

Slap Shot is probably a pretty acquired taste.  I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it.  In a lot of ways it doesn’t feel like it settled on a story, but the fun of the movie keeps it worth watching and the dialogue sets it up for a movie you can rewatch.  It would have been good to see Newman in a few more comedies similar to Slap Stick to see what he could pull off or to see him play less “shiny and clean” characters like Reggie Dunlop.  Slap Shot eventually had a sequel with the straight-to-video Slap Shot 2:  Breaking the Ice released in 2002.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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