Review: THE RUSSIAN FIVE Tells The Story Of Above-Average Athletes In An Average Way


Not quite enough for either hardcore hockey fans or general audiences, The Russian Five ultimately does not do justice to the excellent athletes who inspired it.
Entertainment Value
Technical Merit

The Russian Five is a new documentary film directed by Joshua Riehl. It tells the story of how the Detroit Red Wings revolutionized the NHL in the late 1980’s by drafting five players from the Soviet Union who defected from the Soviet Army in an attempt to bring the Red Wings to victory in the Stanley Cup after they experienced a long losing streak.

The story that lent itself to this documentary is interesting. For someone who is not particularly familiar with or interested in sports, the story of these players was still intriguing because the movie does an excellent job of highlighting how important it (supposedly) is to the course of hockey history. However, if someone is already familiar with what happened, they may not find it to be quite as fascinating.

The film is also enjoyable for those who aren’t hockey fans because of the relevance the story has to world politics in the 1980’s. Although the story isn’t overtly political, those elements are definitely there. The U.S.S.R. was late in its life when these events were occuring, so the fact that these players essentially defected from the Soviet army should show something about how the former superpower was treating its people.

That being said, the movie does have the potential to disappoint hardcore sports fans who watch the film. The information and perspective that the movie offers on the events are relatively straightforward and shallow. This presents a bit of a catch-22, as the simple and straightforward nature of the film also allows it to be more accessible to general audiences. Unfortunately, the movie couldn’t find a middle ground between the two styles.

the russian five cup

The film also does a poor job of developing the subjects of the movie. Instead of focusing on the players and how they affected the history of the sport, it was more about how the team’s management made an impact. Unfortunately, the management is nowhere near as compelling as the players, and as such, the story does not land as it likely should. If the film would have explored the players’ lives with more depth, it would have been better.

Furthermore, the movie has some minor pacing issues. The runtime is just under an hour and forty minutes, but it could have been about twenty minutes shorter. The film lingers a bit too long after the main arc ends, and there is also quite a bit of fluff. One of the more questionable decisions in the movie was including interviews with famous fans of the Red Wings, like Jeff Daniels. If the filmmakers had went all-in with this, it would have worked, but as is, it feels inconsistent.

On a technical level, the film was mostly solid. The interviews are well-shot and conducted in a way that does a good job of telling the story. The use of archive footage is pretty effective at drawing you into the past. The final storytelling method utilized by the movie was animation. Although the animations look really good, they aren’t particularly essential to tell the story. An interview could have accomplished the same purpose with more emotion.

Overall, The Russian Five was a decent documentary. Despite feeling overlong, it somehow manages to not accomplish everything what it sets out to do. Regardless, it is pretty accessible and enjoyable.

The Russian Five is now playing in select theaters.


Space Force | Episode 1 Review | Netflix

Ashley reviews the first episode of Netflix's new series, Space Force. A decorated pilot with dreams of running the Air Force, four-star general Mark R. Naird (Steve Carell) is thrown for a loop when he finds himself tapped to lead the newly formed sixth branch of the US Armed Forces: Space Force. #SpaceForce | #Netflix…

Work in Progress | Season 1 Ep. 4 | Full Episode (TVMA)

161, 153, 137, 122, 106, 104, 102 (We're Still Counting Almonds.) Abby navigates public restrooms as a gender non-conforming queer dyke with OCD and pinballs against a cross section of humanity and perspectives at a Dolly Parton concert. Order SHOWTIME to watch more. TVMA #WorkInProgress Subscribe to the SHOWTIME YouTube channel: Don’t have SHOWTIME?…

Work in Progress | Season 1 Ep. 7 | Full Episode (TVMA)

14 (pt. 2), 12, 11, 10. Having ignored the advice of her friends, Abby finally confesses the truth to Chris (Theo Germaine) after a painting puts her in a trance. Starring Abby McEnany. Order SHOWTIME to watch more. TVMA #WorkInProgress Subscribe to the SHOWTIME YouTube channel: Don’t have SHOWTIME? Order now: Get SHOWTIME…

What We Do In The Shadows | Season 2 Ep. 8: Guillermo and Nandor Make Up Highlight | FX

Distance makes the heart grow fonder. Subscribe now for more What We Do in the Shadows clips: What We Do in the Shadows follows four vampires who’ve “lived” together for hundreds of years. In Season 2, the vampires will try to find their way in a world of human Super Bowl parties, internet trolls,…

The 100 | Season 7 Episode 3 | False Gods Promo | The CW

Stream new episodes of The 100 Thursdays free only on The CW: SUBSCRIBE: About THE 100: The human race returns, after a 97-year exile in space, to a wildly transformed Earth...only to discover that the human race had never truly left. Clarke found herself forced to lead a band of disposable juvenile delinquents…

The Good Fight | Celebrating Lucca Quinn | CBS All Access

All episodes of "The Good Fight" are now streaming, only on CBS All Access. Visit to sign up for CBS All Access. Try 1 week FREE. Subscribe To "CBS All Access" Channel HERE: For more content from "The Good Fight", click HERE: Watch full episodes of "The Good Fight" HERE: Like…

Binge the Final Season of Vida on STARZ

Missed all the drama? Binge the final season of Vida only on the #STARZ App. #VidaSTARZ Like Vida on Facebook: Follow Vida on Twitter: Follow Vida on Instagram: Like STARZ on Facebook: Follow STARZ on Twitter: Follow STARZ on Instagram: Visit STARZ on YouTube: Vida focuses on two…

Daryl and Carol Fall off a Bridge | The Walking Dead Classic Scene

On the hunt for supplies, Daryl and Carol are trapped by walkers with only one way to escape. Watch from The Walking Dead: Subscribe to The Walking Dead on YouTube: #TWD #TheWalkingDead #ClassicScene THE WALKING DEAD: Like The Walking Dead on Facebook: Follow The Walking Dead on Twitter: Visit The Walking…
Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here