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The Independent Critic

FEATURING
Women of the Rose City Rollers
CONCEIVED AND DIRECTED BY
Chip Mabry
MPAA RATING
NR
RUNNING TIME
80 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Gravitas Ventures

 "Brutal Beauty" Review 
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Could it be that I just like angry, aggressive women?

Perhaps.

While I first caught the doc Brutal Beauty: Tales of the Rose City Rollers during the 2010 Indy LGBT Film Festival, the film is now enjoying a limited nationwide release courtesy of the wise folks at Cinema Purgatorio and is currently playing right here back in Indy at the Georgetown 14 Cinemas owned by Republic Theatres.

While new director Chip Mabry currently gets a bit too caught up with talking heads, a particular waste given the electrifying spirit and quirky charm of roller derby, Brutal Beauty is both an entertaining and an informative feature-length doc that will undoubtedly please fans of the sport while potentially providing just enough entertainment and insight to attract a few new fans along the way for those who venture into the theatres.

The film centers around Portland, Oregon's four team Rose City Rollers league, a member of the national Women's Flat Track Derby Association. Mabry does a nice job of managing source material that could have either made light of the more cartoonish aspects of the very serious sport or, adversely, made the film in such a way that it only reinforced the sport as nothing more than faux entertaining sports. Instead, Mabry weaves his way through a variety of the various characters to be found among the Rose City Rollers and, yes, they do all go by names such as Madame Bumpsalot, Blood Clottia and others. While there's definitely humor to be found in the sport of roller derby, Mabry captures nicely the seriousness of the sport, the training, the strategies involved and the lives of the women who involve themselves in an activity that is equal parts anger management, athletic pursuit, female bonding and, yes, ridiculously entertaining.

An exceptional feature of the film, though it becomes a tad monotonous, is that one of the coaches, Rob Lobster, actually explains how it all works - an excellent primer in roller derby rules and regulations for the inexperienced and likely to encourage more than a few people to attend their first bout. Each team has a jammer, a pivot and three blockers and once you've learned how integral each role is to the team it's nearly impossible to not marvel at the punk rock poetry that follows.

Mabry does, at times, fall a bit short in what is most likely to be considered first-time filmmaker mistakes such as not quite capturing the action sequences with as much fluidity as is called for and giving a little too much time to the back stories and not enough time to the sport itself. Yet, even when logic dictates that the film is falling a bit short the film itself remains undeniably entertaining.

If you're in the Indianapolis area, head on out to Georgetown Cinemas this week to catch this doc and discover a theater that is rapidly becoming one of Indy's better alternatives for the indie filmmaker outside the usual Landmark theatres at Keystone and Glendale. For more information on Brutal Beauty, visit the film's website.


© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic

    The 50/50 x 2020 Pledge

    The Independent Critic is proud to support Indy-based Heartland Film by committing to the 50/50 x 2020 Pledge - By the end of the year 2020, The Independent Critic will achieve gender parity in its reviews of both shorts and feature films. Furthermore, The Independent Critic also pledges support for the Ruderman Family Foundation's call for authentic representation of people with disabilities in film and actively commits to leverage its journalistic influence to effect genuine change in the film industry by calling for and actively promoting authentic and inclusive casting and hiring of people with disabilities.

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