Odd Man Rush is surprisingly sweet and thoughtful for a film that revolves around hockey. Unfortunately, a meandering pace prevents this sports-centric flick from being a true breakaway.
Loosely based on the 2016 memoir of former European Minor League player Bill Keenan and directed by Dough Dearth (Underdogs), Odd Man Rush is the story of a privileged New Yorker and former Harvard athlete, Bobby (Jack Mulhern), whose dreams of playing in the NHL are hampered by an injury. Rather than admit defeat, Bobby elects to get to the top the long way – by playing for minor European leagues in the hopes of being drafted by an NHL team. As he bounces from one small northern town to the next, Bobby begins to question his prospects and his commitment to his childhood dream.
Mulhern’s deadpan delivery is perfectly suited to the script’s understated humour. He also brings a humility and self-awareness to the role that makes Bobby likable, and far more sympathetic than he really should be when one considers the opportunities afforded to him by his wealth and upbringing. Wisely, Odd Man Rush doesn’t dwell on Bobby’s family or childhood any more than is absolutely necessary. Instead, the film focuses on the not-so-glamourous aspects of life in the minor leagues. From sub-standard housing to the lack of stability that comes with the ever-present threat of being cut or traded, the picture it paints of a professional athlete’s life is hardly a pretty one. Perhaps that is part of what makes it so easy to connect with Bobby’s story: most of us can relate to it, at least in part. Only the select few with dreams of stardom actually find themselves living that dream. The rest end up somewhere in the middle, caught up in an exhaustive chase, waiting for our big break.
When so many sports films seem to be pumped full of testosterone and clichés, Odd Man Rush is refreshingly grounded. Still, I was left wanting more. The story is driven, for the most part, by Bobby’s internal struggle and without any kind of external conflict, there is little in the way of mounting tension or climax. Instead, the film just sort of plods along toward a leisurely and fairly predicable denouement.
Ultimately, I found Odd Man Rush to be perfectly average – though it certainly deserves recognition for its nuanced portrait of a side of the hockey world that is rarely shown on screen.
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