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film review

Members of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins are shown in a scene from the movie Red Penguins.The Canadian Press

  • Red Penguins
  • Directed by Gabe Polsky
  • Classification PG; 80 minutes


3.5 out of 4 stars

Strippers and gangsters and beer-guzzling bears, oh my. Contrary to its title, Red Penguins is not a nature documentary. Check that. Yes, it is – it’s about human nature. The latest film from sports documentarian Gabe Polsky (In Search of Greatness, Red Army) is a doozy: a jaunty yarn about the wild 1990s moment when a consortium of American investors led by the owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins invested in an iconic Red Army franchise that had fallen into a post-Cold War disrepair.

Razzle-dazzle marketing man Steve Warshaw heads to Russia to build the renamed Red Penguins brand, which he does with stunts, hustle and chutzpah. His Russian counterparts aren’t sure what to make of him, so they go with their default reaction: suspicion.

This isn’t really a hockey story. It’s more about a long-suppressed society unleashed. Gangsters and oligarchs run crazed and lawless – a warped, vodka-drenched capitalism takes hold. Gonzo skates-and-sticks stuff, Slap Shot seems dainty by comparison.

Red Penguins is available digitally on-demand starting Aug. 4

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