starring Robert Duvall, Michael Keaton, Ally McCoist, Libby Langdon
screenplay by Denis O'Neill
directed by Michael Corrente
by Walter Chaw Edited by David Ray (an awfully dignified name, methinks, for a chimp with a razor), A Shot at Glory is easily the worst-assembled film I've seen in ages, so incomprehensibly inept that the idea of continuity is not merely abandoned but trod and spit upon. The film's pacing is lax, there is never anything approaching tension, and there is such a disconnect between shots (let alone between scenes) that the whole exercise plays like a particularly pointless and chaotic montage. I suspect the only reason the thing makes any sense at all is through one's overwhelming familiarity with the underdog sports intrigue and the UK working-class saga. In other words, we have an idea of what's going on in A Shot at Glory because it's Hoosiers meets The Full Monty--neither scrimping on the male nudity nor the crusty "working class schleps make good" formula that such a horrific union implies. That's also probably why the film got made in the first place.
Gord McLeod (Robert Duvall) is the "gaffer" of small-town soccer team the "Nockies" (just like Gene Hackman in Hoosiers and, as it turns out, The Replacements, too) who dreams of one day winning the prestigious Scotland Cup. The Nockies' Yankee owner Peter Cameron (Michael Keaton) threatens that anything less will result in him moving the team to Ireland. Oh boy. Rather than impose a Major League scenario on A Shot at Glory, Cameron actually tries to help his team out by signing star player Jackie McQuillan (ex-footballer Ally McCoist), an elite athlete on the decline from alcohol and anger who used to be married to Gord's ethereally beautiful daughter, Kate (Kirsty Mitchell).
Meek and undirected shots at the Catholic/Protestant conflict in that part of the world find a simple-minded microcosm in Gord's refusal to speak with Kate (Jackie's a protestant, after all) and a simple-minded macrocosm in a few undeveloped looks at soccer hooligans. Jackie wants to win Kate back, though it's never clear that his character needs redemption. All of Jackie's fellow Nockies are so under-written that it's impossible and pointless to try to tell them apart, and the editing is, again, appalling: the game sequences (shot on 16mm for that extra-vérité, extra-shoestring look) have neither logical flow nor coherence nor, ultimately, purpose. A shame, then, that interminable and visually ugly game shots comprise a good third of the running time, including a finale both predictable and grossly overlong.
Keaton's performance is on the lower rung of Keaton performances: all tics and spastic jitters, he works a piece of gum harder than Kathie Lee works a 9-year-old Indonesian girl. The funniest line in the purportedly whimsical picture comes when one of the players says of Cameron, "He looks a little nervous." Right. Still, nervous is better than Duvall's pinched concentration, his performance a cross between the one he offered in The Acolyte and the one Laurence Olivier gave for Marathon Man. It's Bad Accent Theatre is what I'm saying, all in the employ of a red-faced, vein-swelling intensity that alarms for Duvall's throbbing sincerity and his elderly propensity for patting people while he talks. Also produced by the veteran thespian, Duvall appears for all intents to be attempting to hoist the film onto his back. I don't envy him; A Shot at Glory is a pretty leaden thing to be lugging around.
A hundred-minute cliché with a pretty nice soundtrack by Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler, A Shot at Glory is one of those cynically manufactured uplift flicks sure to please a certain arthouse crowd every bit as clueless (though for different reasons) as the mainstream audiences it disdains. All would probably be forgiven (as it was for Disney's recent The Rookie) if A Shot at Glory had the wit to be a derivative bit of garbage that at least demonstrated a level of professionalism, love, and style in its execution. But, alas, the flick is a few nice shots of Scotland docks mixed in with a whole lot of agonizing and carefully chewed-over genre claptrap that is alternately boring, bizarrely inept, and unintentionally hilarious. Originally published: May 3, 2002.