A Shot at Glory
2001, R, 115 min. Directed by Michael Corrente. Starring Morag Hood, Kirsty Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Brian Cox, Michael Keaton, Ally McCoist, Robert Duvall.
REVIEWED By Nick Barbaro, Fri., May 10, 2002
It might sound like a fairly standard sports movie transplanted to the Scottish Highlands -- the underdog minor leaguers from the tiny burg of Kilnockie rise through the ranks to finally challenge the mighty Glasgow Rangers on their home turf, while working out family problems at home -- but really, it's more than that. Here are four reasons why you should jump in your car right now and hurry down to see A Shot at Glory before it's too late: 1) A sense of place. Director Michael Corrente has shown a wonderful talent in the past for making you feel like you know this town and these people, but it's one thing to do it in your hometown (Federal Hill, Outside Providence), and quite another to do it in a foreign land, in what's nearly a foreign language. Amply aided by a mostly native cast and crew, and Alex Thomson's gorgeous widescreen cinematography, Corrente nimbly evokes both the lush countryside and intimate camaraderie of rural Scotland, and the harsh cynicism of urban Glasgow, and makes you feel like you know where these people are coming from. Also notable: a stirring traditional musical score by Glaswegian Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) that almost makes you forgive the River Dance craze. Within an hour after leaving the theatre, I was wistfully checking the Internet for discount flights to Glasgow. Maybe next year. 2) The soccer footage. If you're a fan of the game, treat yourself to some of the best action scenes you'll ever see on film -- shot with multiple 16mm cameras at actual matches in actual stadiums, large and small, so the feeling isn't of staged incidents, but of actual game conditions, where the fever of the crowd is palpable (see “a sense of place,” above). If you're not a fan, this might be the movie that makes it click, that gives you a glimpse of why the sport produces such passion around the world. It's rare that a sports movie -- in any sport -- can evoke the drama of the actual sport itself. This one does. Seeing 50,000 blue-and-white-clad fans suddenly jump to their feet and roar with one voice made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. 3) The acting performances. The film is a tour de force and a labor of love for Robert Duvall, who says he'd dreamed for a decade of playing a Scottish soccer manager, and co-produced to get the chance. As always, he's a joy to watch, but almost as good is real-life footballer Ally McCoist. The first Scottish League player to win the Golden Boot as the top goal-scorer in Europe, and the first player of any nationality to win the award twice in a row, McCoist had never acted before, outside of sports talk shows, but he may just have a future in the craft. And while Michael Keaton's fine as the somewhat crass American owner, what really makes it work are the bit parts: the team mum, the pub denizens, the rabid fans, and especially the players -- mostly low-level pros who lend an almost documentary feel to the game and training scenes. 4) If you don't go now, you probably won't get another chance. Because, having said all that about how much I truly adore this movie, I have to say, I think there are some screws loose somewhere between the producers and marketers. I mean, what did they think they were going to do with an R-rated soccer movie? Think about what other U.S. soccer movies there've been recently: The Big Green, Air Bud: World Pup … what else? So I'm not surprised, only disappointed, that it's getting an almost invisible release -- one multiplex screen during its first week, no ad budget, and going to matinees-only in its second and probably final week. One almost gets the feeling someone was humoring Duvall by even spending the money to ship the print down here. So go now instead of waiting until it's out on video. It's worth seeing the action scenes on the big screen, and to get in the mood for the World Cup opener later this month.