Hell on Wheels

"Very Good"

Hell on Wheels Review


True story: When I was in business school, I took a class where the students put together a busines plan over the course of the semester. Some of the ideas were just for the class, but some students wanted to make a real go of it. A couple of friends of mine wrote a business plan for a magazine, and decided they wanted to create it for real. But before the year was up, the business was dead and the former best friends were no longer speaking. Why? A dispute over ownership of the business, which they hadn't hashed out beforehand. To my knowledge, they still hate each other.

Hell on Wheels is technically a documentary about roller derby, but it's far more interesting for its content about the business world. After taking us through the dutiful history of the "sport" -- which was born in the 1940s and fell out of favor over the next few decades before seeing a decent revival in the 2000s -- we're introduced to some of the revivalists in Austin, Texas. With skate-names like Clownsnack and Sparkle Plenty, we can understand the hard times they have dealing with in getting their matches together: Scrounging up money for skates and uniforms is the big talk at team meetings, which are usually held at a bar or a public park.

It's a little curious then when a couple of the girls decide to make the roller derby league legitimate, choosing to incorporate it as a real business, complete with "She-E-Os." Without buy-in from 80 percent of the skaters in the league, what follows is a perfectly instructive example of how not to get your company off the ground: A mass revolt occurs, and the majority of the girls depart to form their own rival roller derby league.

Of course, there's something deeply comic about hearing all of this explained from a heavily-tattooed and pierced woman in a floppy pink hunter's cap. It's quite unexpected then to find out that, in the end, the leagues -- the original and the spin-off splinter group -- are both big hits, paving the way for roller derby to re-emerge around the country and the world.The film even finds time to show off some footage from the matches -- the thrill of victory and, yes, the agony of defeat (those squeamish about blood need not apply).

Shot over five years and created with an obvious surfeit of love and respect for the girls who pour their heart and soul into the game, director Bob Ray has created what is likely to be the only extensive filmed document that will ever be made about roller derby. Given how brutal these matches can be, that might be a good thing.

Aka Hell On Wheels: The Birth Of All-Girl Roller Derby.



Hell on Wheels

Facts and Figures

Run time: 42 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 6th November 2011

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 8.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Bob Ray

Producer: Bob Ray, Werner Campbell

Starring: as Himself

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