It cost me 50p to get into my local flea-pit to see Peter Markle’s rote but enjoyable ice-hockey drama, and I don’t begrudge a penny of it. Not only does it team two stars for the ages in Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, but Youngblood also features a salty performance from Rob Lowe as the titular player. Ice hockey lends itself perfectly to the big screen, and it helps that many of the main cast know their way around the Plexiglas arenas. Ready to play?
Co-written by Variety writer Peter Bart, Youngblood leaves no cliché unturned as it charts the formative years of Dean Youngblood, a US player who seeks the Canadian league as a short-cut to sporting success. Youngblood signs for the Hamilton Mustangs, learns about sex via randy landlady Mrs McGill (Fionnula Flanagan), dates the daughter (Cynthia Gibb) of the coach (Ed Lauter) and enjoys the camaraderie of the team before a grudge turns deadly and he has to retire to take stock of the innate violence of the game.
Existentialism is at work here. Youngblood must find the courage to take his chances in a world where good and bad things can happen; Lowe actually does a good job of suggesting the deepening angst Youngblood feels about the rising stakes. He might not say much, but George J Finn is an awesome villain as Carl Racki, who is given to acting out violent Roy Keane-level sporting vendettas and is very much exactly what Youngblood finds himself up against. And William Orbit contributes the musical accompaniment, all quite ahead of its time for 1985.
Sports movies live or die by their action; for some reason ice hockey lends itself perfectly to the big screen, and it helps that many of the extras, and even the main cast, know their way around the Plexiglas arenas. Like Slap Shot and Miracle, Youngblood is a far better movie than it should be, with cynical experience, callow youth, and no-hold-barred action all rolled into a package that should be enjoyed by teenagers at heart around the globe, with or without ice.