The Chiefs Jason Gileno

To watch the hockey documentary The Chiefs without having watched the 1977 sports classic Slapshot would still be enjoyable but you would be robbed of one of the great examples of life imitating art. The Chiefs are the Laval team in the L.H.S.P.Q., the Quebec semi-pro league. As presented through this film, the L.H.S.P.O. has as much in common with ultimate fighting as it does hockey. Brawls occur before, during and after the game, with fans likely to join in; even the owner of the Chiefs throws his hat into the ring on at least one occasion. If you want to watch some guys on skates beat the shit out of each other, this is your movie. Thankfully, this aspect of the documentary is secondary. The majority of the film takes it cue from docs like Project Grizzly, where absurd and potentially laughable subjects are portrayed as flawed but admirable in their sideshow-ish pursuit. The Chiefs follow a cast of minor league bottom feeders who all favour the rough stuff. The scenes are filmed in typical handheld style and derive their strength through editing. The players come across, essentially, as guys who will do anything to pursue the dream of hockey, and their girlfriends as loyal, long-suffering camp followers. The Chiefs could just be a freak show about a league desperate to pervert a game into a blood sport in the name of profit but it manages to provide a sometimes funny, sometimes sad portrayal of the grimy small-town underbelly of our national game. (Seville)