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DVD: Red Army | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Red Army

DVD: Red Army

Breathless take on the story of how the USSR conquered North America with ice hockey

At the top of his game: Vyacheslav Fetisov, captain of the Soviet Union’s Red Army ice hockey team as seen in 'Red Army'

The story of the Soviet Union’s ice hockey team's pivotal role in relations with North America is fascinating. Its players were not just sportsmen. They were also in the army and integral to their home country's portrayal of itself on the world stage. Central to the Cold War battle of wills, the seemingly unbeatable team was a propaganda tool and, after perestroika, its members played for American and Canadian teams. Russia had infiltrated its adversaries. The Werner Herzog-produced documentary Red Army tells this tale.

The film is packed with characters. Chief among them is Vyacheslav Fetisov (also known as Slava), the former long-time captain of the Soviet Union’s Red Army team. With seven world championships and two Olympic gold medals under his belt, he was also the first Soviet citizen granted a visa allowing him to play hockey in the west. He features heavily in Red Army. After becoming Russia’s Minister of Sport (from 2002 to 2008), Fetisov became a member of the upper house of the Federal Assembly of Russia and was integral to facilitating the last Winter Olympics in Sochi. An asteroid is named after him. On screen, he is, by turns, aggressive, astonishingly rude, charming, off-hand, opinionated and seemingly candid.

Be prepared to be steamrollered by the film's grab-bag approach

Fetisov’s roller-coaster persona is emblematic of Red Army overall. Director Gabe Polsky crams in so much about the team, its evolution, playing style, its international adventures, the fate of its players and trainers, its fragmentation and place in the political agenda that the film moves at a pace as blistering as its players on ice. The overall thesis of the team as a political tool is made, but much is swiftly left behind in the breathless rush. A less all-encompassing approach and fewer distracting graphics would have allowed Red Army to breathe.

The extras on the home cinema release include the trailer, a behind-the-scenes short which is little more than the preparation of interview set-ups, an extended interview with player Vladimir Krutov and Polsky himself narrating a section of a 1987 Canada Cup match. See this enjoyable and illuminating doc, but be prepared to be steamrollered by its grab-bag approach to direction.           

On screen, Fetisov is, by turns, aggressive, astonishingly rude, charming, off-hand, opinionated and seemingly candid


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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