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Original Issue


One reviewer wrote that Paperback Hero was "boring garbage." It is not boring. It has vaguely to do with small-town semipro hockey in western Canada and, specifically, with the decline and fall of Rick Dillon (Keir Dullea), star of the Delisle, Sask. team. Dillon and his sidekick Pov are good enough, according to Pov, to "be playing pro in the expansions if it was 10 years ago." But it is not, and they are not, and one is inclined to reject Pov's evaluation on the grounds of lack of evidence.

For the sake of the story, though, we go along. Because he is the star of the team, Dillon has the run of Delisle, a one-tavern hamlet at least three blocks square. In fact, he is called "the Marshal," and he is not above taking the law in his hands. It appears he has carte blanche with the locals to indulge his antisocial predilections, which are 1) fantasizing with a loaded handgun for a prop and 2) beating up on his girl friends. Taking her lumps along with the rest is Loretta, a loyal and always loving barmaid, played by Elizabeth Ashley. The trouble with the part is that Rick Dillon is the sort only a mother could love and, in this case, even his mother seems to have better sense.

Dillon's privileged existence begins to fall apart when Big Ed, the richest man in town and owner of the team, decides he cannot afford to replace his broken-down ice-making equipment and therefore must disband the Delisles.

The approaching dissolution of the team forces an overdue identity crisis on both Dillon and the movie. Dillon deals with this characteristically—boozing, brawling, driving his convertible erratically and shooting everything that moves—but the movie remains blocked. Everything till now has pointed toward a climactic hockey game in which the filmgoer will at last be able to determine whether or not Keir Dullea, or anyone else in Delisle, can really play hockey. But it never happens. On the day that the final game is scheduled, the ice turns to slush and the referee declares a default. The team, led by the now berserk Dillon, erupts into some poorly choreographed violence and the film meanders to an absurd and pretentious resolution.

The story of a small-town athletic hero whose time of glory is passing is an enduring theme and could have been touching. The demise of a two-bit sadist who is also a stupid lout is not.