“Infinity?” the protagonist of Adriana Maggs’ biopic Goalie intones. “It’s just another f*****g number.” To mirror his sentiment: in an infinite number of sport biopics, her film sadly happens to be just another one. It’s neither bold enough to leave an impression nor misguided enough to be qualified as trash.
Those familiar with hockey will instantly recognize the name Terry Sawchuck. Born in 1929, the NHL legend played for 21 seasons, winning over 500 games and receiving 400 stitches to the face. To this day, he is considered to be one of the best goalies of all time. He also happened to be a depressed alcoholic and an abusive husband. That’s a juicy life story, ripe for the picking by a visionary filmmaker. Based on this evidence, Maggs is a skilled and patient filmmaker, but visionary, she’s not.
“…the young man becoming an all-star goalie and a*****e under the tutelage and pseudo-fatherhood of general manager Jack Adams…”
The film dutifully follows Terry (Mark O’Brien) from his young days with his borderline-abusive father Louis (Ted Atherton) to the young man becoming an all-star goalie and a*****e under the tutelage and pseudo-fatherhood of general manager Jack Adams (Kevin Pollack). He stoically withstands playful harassment from his teammates, including Marcel Pronovost (Éric Bruneau) and Gordie Howe (Steve Byers), as well as significant injuries. His only respite comes from romancing local waitress Pat (Georgina Reilly), to whom he eventually proposes. Alas, the pressure, in addition to Terry’s turbulent upbringing, ends up overtaking him. As his fame rises, he gets more aggressive with reporters, fans, his manager (who trades him), and Pat, on whom he cheats.
Maggs seems to reach for greatness at times, almost grasping it. There’s a touching sequence involving Terry receiving a pair of shoes from a kindly store owner that has a payoff later on. Some of the hockey scenes are truly visceral, the men playing with no headgear, every collision of puck-against-skin tangible. The filmmaker elicits uniformly committed performances from the entire cast. Mark O’Brien convincingly morphs from timid and introverted to explosive and enraged. Pollack’s always dependable, and Georgina Reilly has a few instances where she gets the opportunity to display nuance.
"…the NHL legend played for 21 seasons, winning over 500 games and receiving 400 stitches to the face."