Blu-ray Review: Valiant

STUDIO: Gravitas Ventures | DIRECTOR: Cruz Angeles
RELEASE DATE: Dec. 3, 2019 | PRICE: DVD $11.29, Blu-ray $13.29
SPECS: NR | 93 min. | Sports/Documentary | stereo | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall 

A fascinating look at the initial season of the Vegas Golden Knights NHL franchise, the new documentary film Valiant entertains and informs in its dissection of the seemingly unending issues faced by a sports enterprise new to an untapped market.

Directed with great flare and seemingly open access to all involved with the team by filmmaker Cruz Angeles (“Fernando Nation” for ESPN’s 30/30 series), Valiant traces the evolution of the team, from before Vegas got the franchise to the team’s strong  performance that led to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance against the Washington Capitals (where the Golden Knights lost in five games)

The mastermind of the whole affair is multimillionaire and financial wizard Bill Foley, a West Point graduate, who ponies up a record $500 million—the last group of NHL expansion teams paid only $80 million to get into the business– for the opportunity to bring the “sport played on ice to the desert.”  It’s the first pro sports franchise in the area and, despite decades of hosting a minor league hockey team, the success of the investment seems like a longshot.

The awarding of the team was dependent on selling tickets and building an expensive arena. Even with those goals accomplished, the prognosis among experts was iffy at best, partly because of the personnel that came with the expansion draft. With the exception of a top-notch goalie (former Penguins netminder Marc-André Fleury), a few reliable veterans (like ex-Nashville Predator James Neal) and several journeymen players, the team appeared destined to finish towards the bottom of the basement.

Adding to the team’s early struggles was the mass shooting of 50-plus attendees of a country western festival on the Vegas strip, which occurred just before the team played its first home game in October, 2017. In the most moving segment of Valiant, players led by defenseman and Vegas resident Deryk Engelland worked with  team officials to help bring the community together after the tragedy with a series of events, including a moving opening ceremony at the first game.

On paper, Valiant may seem like its appeal would be narrow, geared primarily to fans of the team. But its story is so absorbing and its inside look at how the sports business works so stimulating that it could likely find a wider fan base ready, willing and able to cheer on this squad and the powers-that-be behind them.

Buy or Rent Valiant

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.