Leave It On The Track (tbc)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner27/06/2012

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 80 mins

Essentially, this is the real life version of Whip It, a hugely entertaining documentary that's by turns gripping, thrilling, informative, moving, wince-inducing and frequently funny.

What's it all about?
Directed by Benjamin Pascoe, Leave It on the Track is a documentary about roller derby, the fastest-growing women's sport in the world, which sees teams of roller-skating women competing on a circular, sloping racetrack and scoring points by one player ("Jammer") from each team overtaking the others on the track. The film focuses on the 2009 end of season championship bout between the undefeated Cherry Bombs (led by soon-to-retire roller derby veteran Cherry Chainsaw) and fierce challengers The Wildcats (led by Dirty Blonde).

Pascoe structures the film brilliantly, giving us play-by-play edited highlights of the championship match itself, interspersed with interviews with each of the main players, essentially allowing them to profile each other. Along the way we learn the rules of the game (including extras such as the spinning Penalty Wheel, which sees points awarded based on the outcomes of randomly chosen pillow fights, tugs-of-war or similar) and get some informative snippets of the history of the game, most of which are rather cheekily culled from another roller derby documentary, 2007's Hell On Wheels.

The Good
The players, with their distinctive names (which weirdly lends the sport an odd correlation to burlesque) and larger-than-life personalities are a highly entertaining bunch and the conceit of having them profile each other works extremely well, giving both a strong sense of camaraderie and a feel for just how feared and respected each player is on the track.

Similarly, the film does a much better job of explaining the rules than Drew Barrymore's wonderful Whip It (which is discussed within the film, plus Barrymore hung out with the teams for research and some of the players did stunt work), so the match sequences are genuinely exciting to watch, especially after the film tells you how to tell the Jammers from the Pivots. The only drawback here is that the camera doesn't seem to have been allowed anywhere near the track for the match, so all the game footage is taken from official sources and doesn't allow for close-ups or cutaways.

The Great
As the title suggests, what emerges from the film is a fascinating dynamic within the teams, with most of the players admitting that they hate their opponents on the track (and, indeed, are viciously violent towards each other, often dishing out elbows to the face and so on), but love and respect them off the track. This is movingly demonstrated when one of the players receives a wince-inducing injury (the squeamish may want to look away during that sequence) and team-mates from both sides are visibly upset and shocked, as much as they would be for a member of their own family.

Worth seeing?
Leave It on the Track is a hugely entertaining documentary that literally delivers both thrills and spills. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Leave It On The Track (tbc)
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Content updated: 21/10/2017 22:15

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