Getting your “bell rung” is still a rite of passage for many adolescents and teenagers engaged in the manly sports of football and hockey. Surges of testosterone, the roar of the crowd and the ever so faint possibility of a life of riches in the big leagues result in legions of injuries and the occasional death. Relentless, reckless risks to win at any price keep emergency rooms thriving and provide bone specialists with a never-ending stream of clientele. Equally common—and in many cases more debilitating—are the split-second collisions on the fields of dreams that cause the stars to shine for those who have suffered any level of concussion (various brain injury associations still have no universal grading—the Ontario Brain Injury Association describes two categories: simple and complex).
But whether mild, moderate or severe, the impact causes the brain to scrape against the inside of the skull. All manner of consequences can occur. Trouble is, unlike the X-ray of a broken limb, the required treatment often remains as mysterious as the largely unseen damage: hidden from view.
As Mike Reilly’s Road to Victory opens (the varsity shirts sporting the same name predict some of the not-too-subtle points and situations to come) quarterback-with-potential Elliot (Reilly) voiceovers a near-apology to his home-movie captured toddler for the story that must be told and how we are “betrayed by what we want most.” It’s a story that his son will want to know.
Soon the back-story shows the Dawgs’ fateful scrimmage where Elliot is knocked senseless by teammate Chris and ends up lying on the gridiron hoping to wake up and walk off under his own steam. Before you can say “What happened next?” we’re in biology class where the apparently recovered QB reveals himself to be an expert on erectile function. Not surprisingly, his late-arriving seatmate, Anna (nubily played by Julia Anderson) takes especial interest in this unusual proficiency, promptly asking him out on a date. But her sudden infatuation could just be professional curiosity. The forward, buxom co-ed was also known as Indigo when working her way through college as a stripper (note to set decorator: the emporium of semi-naked women seems far too pristine).
Their first date yields a hug and near-kiss (despite Anna’s offer to “come up”); the second succeeds to the bedroom but once the clothes hit the deck Elliot can’t rise to the occasion (thank goodness for the flopping lover’s adroitness in cunnilingus or the movie ends here.)
From this point on, Reilly’s script becomes too predictable to truly engage, yet his theme is so compelling I hope most viewers won’t be as critical and stay for the message. (Fortunately, with very little nudity and sensitive discretion in the sexual encounters, the film should be seen by the age group most at risk.)
Anna and Elliot try to work through their mostly down, hardly up relationship (harvesting semen samples for the inevitable tests was also tastefully done) with patience and persistence. But she tells anyone who will listen that the football stud is limp. After his anger dissipates, Elliot goes on a boner quest that includes Viagra, massage creams and injections into the ass or just below the uncooperative tower of flesh (some scar tissue may result, but surgery can fix that).
Along the way, there’s an attempt to introduce other characters: the understanding coach (Clay St. Thomas), the always-present scout (Keith D. Humphrey), the long-dead, gauntlet-throwing father, the two friends (Curtis Bechdholt and Kaela Aryn)—the male of whose fashion sense seems to place him on the opposite team and poor Chris (Winston Brown does the best he can with his lines—his bed scene is truly unbelievable—and should be put to better use next time out).
Then “Eureka!” Specialist Dr. Morino (Peter Abrams) prescribes a regimen that works. Soon, Elliot is back in the saddle, only to erupt not into orgasmic ecstasy but a partnership-threatening fight with his long-suffering (“I sucked your [flaccid] cock … because I cared”) now ex-stripper soulmate. Lurking in the background and adding more mud than intrigue is the subplot of does he or doesn’t he use steroids—a topical subject to be sure, yet its unanswered question dulls the impact.
All of which leads to the big choice: good health or living the dream.
But when all is said, done and delivered (including Surque’s rendition of Sean Hayes’ songs) this film—despite its penchant for black-and-white narrative when many shades of grey are needed—needs to be seen and discussed so that membership in the survivors club in the world of Acquired Brain Injury (concussion being just one part) will shrink rather than grow. JWR