The Last Gladiators


The Last Gladiators

Somebody should take this movie out to centre ice, drop the gloves, and smack it into shape.

Alex Gibney (USA, Real to Reel)

Friday, September 9, 9 p.m.
AMC 2 (10 Dundas Street East)

Saturday, September 10, 9:15 a.m.
AMC 7 (10 Dundas Street East)

Sunday, September 18, 9:15 p.m.
Scotiabank Theatre 4 (259 Richmond Street West)

Where Alex Gibney’s last doc, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, relevantly dug its heels into the ethics and sensationalism of scandal politics, his latest documentary does… not much. Last Gladiators is an ode to the hockey goon, with a particular interest in the struggles of legendary Canadiens enforcer Chris “Knuckles” Nilan. It also cuts to other scrappy legends like Donald Brashear (now ringing in Quebecois senior leagues), Tony Twist, and the humiliated Marty McSorley. Cutting between Nilan’s arc and anecdotal fodder culled from the lives of these other on-ice thugs wildly unbalances the film, making it seem as crudely stitched together as the suture for some mid-game cut.

Organized in a whole bunch of different sections prefaced by dopey inter-titles (“Riding the Rollercoaster”), Last Gladiators feels like a web series or a DVD special feature. Gibney skims over a mess of different issues, like why enforcers are necessary in hockey, or how exactly their sacred “Code” functions, giving the film no real focus, and a scattered breadth at the expense of depth. Nilan’s a fairly charming character, but Gibney can’t even commit to him. If he’s not even interested in his subject, what hope is there for us?