Coming to theatres today, Friday, May 31:
THE RUSSIAN FIVE
Traverse City, Seattle, Montreal
An exploration of the impact of several Russian players on an American hockey team in the 1980s-1990s.
In the late 1980s, Detroit’s ice hockey team, the Red Wings, had long seen better days. Nicknamed the “Dead Wings,” they were in need of a radical change. That came with their new owner, Little Caesar’s founder Mike Ilitch, and new general manager, Jimmy Devellano, and their decision to draft five Russian star players, starting with Sergei Federov. Director Joshua Riehl’s film is at its best – and most generally accessible – when it’s delving into the behind-the-scenes intrigue that enabled these Soviet athletes to get to the US from behind the Iron Curtain. After that, however, the stories of culture clash experienced by the new players gives way to a too slavish retrospective appreciation for all of the key games that helped define the Red Wings comeback – an approach that feels very much geared to a hockey fanbase. Still leaving that aside – as well as its irksome score – there is a generally appealing underdog story here with some strong personalities to provide viewers with a hook.