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Review: Youngblood (1986)

Director: Peter Markle | 110 minutes | drama, romance, sports | Actors: Rob Lowe, Cynthia Gibb, Patrick Swayze, Ed Lauter, Jim Youngs, Eric Nesterenko, George J. Finn, Fionnula Flanagan, Ken James, Peter Faussett, Walker Boone, Keanu Reeves, Martin Donlevy, Harry Spiegel, Rob Sapienza, Bruce Edwards, Lorraine Foreman, Catherine Bray, Jain Dickson, Barry Swatuk, Michael Legros,

What football is to us is ice hockey to the average Canadian: the national sport, which is widely practiced as well as nationally followed by a large fan base. The role the ball plays in the lives of many boys who dream of a career as a professional football player is reserved for pucks and hockey sticks in the ponds and lakes of immense Canada. Most Canadians with serious sporting ambitions dream of a career in the National Hockey League (NHL), the North American professional league that is considered the mecca for every ice hockey player. But making it to the NHL is not an easy task, because to become a top ice hockey player you not only have to be able to skate well and handle a hockey stick, but also be rock hard. On the ice you regularly have to deal with devastating charges of skating men at full speed who weigh a kilo or a hundred clean on the hook.

In “Youngblood,” we follow seventeen-year-old Dean Youngblood (a very young Rob Lowe), an extraordinarily talented ice hockey player from the American rural town of Stanton. Dean is very ambitious and wants to get through to the NHL as soon as possible. To realize that dream, he must first try to get a place with the Hamilton Mustangs, a Canadian training team. After the usual initiation rituals and teething troubles, Dean gradually finds his feet in Hamilton and befriends Derek Sutton (Patrick Swayze), the charismatic captain of the Mustangs.

“Youngblood” is in many ways a typical sports movie. The protagonist / hero is a typical outsider who has to overcome numerous hurdles on the way to his dream, such as lack of experience, difficult coaches and extremely mean opponents. Dean’s nemesis is Racki, a gnarly ice hockey player who likes to play the game dirty and takes an almost satanic delight in hurting opponents badly or knocking a few teeth out of their mouths. The rude and bearded fighter boss is the ultimate opposite of Dean, a player who is physically a bit on the light side and mainly relies on his speed and excellent stick control. The archetypal contrast between the pure athlete and the classic brawler. In many ways, “Youngblood” is treading the beaten path. The classic hazing, the sometimes difficult relationship with the coach and some teammates, the ultimate acceptance, the temporary setbacks and the not always entirely credible denouement largely correspond to the clichés that you associate with a sports film of this type. Of course, the print is also topped with a sauce, in this case the budding puppy love between Dean and Jessie Chadwick, not coincidentally the coach’s daughter.

Despite its predictability, “Youngblood” is still a movie that looks good. The action on the ice is staged quite well and stylishly, while the main characters easily arouse the viewer’s sympathy. Extra nice is that “Youngblood” is a characteristic cinematic time document. Everything about the film has the atmosphere of the eighties. The hairstyles, the soundtrack, the lighting, the places where the film takes place, it is a feast of recognition for anyone who grew up (partly) in the eighties of the twentieth century and has a soft spot for films from this era. Oscar material is certainly not “Youngblood”, but if you are looking for a nice and light-hearted sports film with a hint of romance, this print is certainly worth it.

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