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'The Rocket'

Hockey legend Maurice "The Rocket" Richard is hardly the household name in this country that he is in Canada, but Charles Binamé's rousing sports saga takes a concerted shot at changing that.

Richard (played by square-jawed Canadian actor Roy Dupuis) was a Quebecois hero, a top scorer in professional hockey when he played for the Montreal Canadiens from 1942 to 1960. He was the first player to score 50 goals in 50 games and, as is depicted in a particularly vivid sequence in the film, he made five of them in a single game, despite being exhausted from an all-day move into a new house. Along with the triumphs, though, and off the ice, came a raft of Jackie Robinson-esque echoes: A minority in the mostly Anglophone National Hockey League, Richard battled anti-Quebecois prejudice through much of his career.

Binamé doesn't reinvent the genre: This is a conventional, if handsomely produced, sports biopic. But he uses the prejudice — and Richard's reaction to it — to give the film a spine, and to make its story resonant and affecting.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.