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Under Siege

MRQE Top Critic

Noi Albinoi

Mystery and ambivalence about this Bleak portrait of isolation are amplified on DVD —Marty Mapes (DVD review...)

Noi the Albino spends winter in Iceland alone

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A Shot at Glory surpasses Mystery, Alaska. Both feature small-town sports teams making it all the way to the top (which in both cases means playing the Rangers). Where Mystery was about hockey, A Shot at Glory is about soccer (football, actually, since it’s set in Scotland).

Kilnockie F.C.

Duvall Americanizes A Shot at GloryThe Kilnockie football club has been having a good year, and it gets even better when they hire a ringer, two-time Golden Boot winner Jackie McQuillan (Ally McCoist). With McQuillan on the team. Kilnockie wins their way into the year-end Scottish Cup tournament.

The team is mildly resentful at Jackie’s presence. Not only does he gets paid more than any other four players combined, but he’s also the son-in-law of their coach. He’s a prima donna with a history of drinking and womanizing and not respecting his teammates. And yet, he’s good enough to make a difference.

The movie follows the humble Kilnockie F.C. through their wild, rags-to-riches ride, stopping occasionally for a subplot involving Jackie’s estranged wife Kate (Kirsty Mitchell), who is also the coach’s daughter.

Quirk and Charm

You might think A Shot at Glory is a quirky UK import, and in part, you’d be right. The settings, the subject matter, the crowds of extras all immerse you in a Scottish experience. Tall pints of ale, double-decker buses and verdant countrysides remind you that this ain’t Hollywood. Past charmers like The Full Monty and the great Local Hero spring to mind and immediately set expectations for quirky, charming, lightweight fun..

Bottom line, A Shot at Glory doesn’t live up to those expectations. And I do mean “bottom line.” A Shot at Glory was probably inexpensive to produce, because the movie looks cheap. Blurred edges indicate either digital footage or cheap digital effects. Merely adequate studio lighting indicates a tight shooting schedule and the relative unimportance of a solid, natural look.

The money saved on the look of the film seems to have been spent on two recognizable American actors. Robert Duvall plays Gordon, Kilnockie’s coach, and Michael Keaton lends his name to the picture with a cameo as Kilnockie’s American owner. While these two Americans give some name recognition to A Shot at Glory, they cost the movie some authenticity and they distract from the story.

The Americanization of Gordon

American-born Robert Duvall stars as a coach Gordon McLeod, a former goalkeeper who never played for a winning team. Now he hopes to win a cup as a coach. As the central character, his life is the most well-defined. His wife and daughter play larger parts than you’d expect (or want, alas), and his life off the field gets more screen time than anyone else. Duvall rises to the challenge, taking on a thick Scottish accent.

But Duvall’s accent is also a constant distraction. The accent sounds authentic, but either it’s not quite right, or Duvall is just too well-known as a crotchety American for me to believe he’s a Scottish football coach.

As for Michael Keaton, he stands out like bad hair in contrast to the humble cast of unknowns. It’s not his fault, it’s just an obvious ploy to broaden the appeal of the film.

What a Save!

The movie does have some charm and heart. It’s the colorful minor characters that make a lasting impression, like the fan who simply can’t bear to watch, or the caretaker at the Kilnockie F.C. who is like a mother to the team.

But overall A Shot at Glory is forgettable. See it if you love quirky imports and want to avoid Spider-Man. But don’t put it in your library next to Local Hero or The Full Monty.

  • M. Rezel: Great movie! Inspiration for my sons who play the beautiful game.
    We need more movies about soccer. An untapped market for hollywood.

    Fantastic job Mr. Duvall.

    M. April 17, 2009 reply
  • Johnny: I think your review of this movie is rubbish ! Clearly you were not in touch with the emotions that run high in Scotland about their football. As a Scot now living in America I'm well aware who and what Robert Duvall is , and yet I was able to fully believe him in the role of Gordon McLeod. His accent was spot on . I thoroughly enjoyed this movie even the 2nd time I watched it. I did however think that it was not made for the world stage but rather for a UK audience. May 15, 2009 reply
    • Jim Happer: I agree with this critic. The minor character actors are exceedingly funny and very well done. I would say that this story could never in a million years be written or produced by any of the Hollywood people. It is a gem of a movie.
      Robert Duvall is convincing - I understand the commercial reason for using 2 well known actors, however, the movie was good even with these foreigners. May 22, 2009 reply