YOUNGBLOOD

A solitary young man shoots practice goals on a small-town ice-rink. He’s fast on his skates, adept with his hockey stick, and he knows he’s good. He has talent and he has a dream to play professional hockey, all he needs is a chance to prove himself. The young man is played by Rob Lowe, and the movie is the classic 80’s sports movie, “Youngblood” (1986), one of the movies featured in our Rob Lowe Movie Marathon, showing throughout the month on MGM HD.

Set in the gritty, blue collar world of Canadian Junior League hockey, there is a sense of authenticity in the milieu of “Youngblood.” Here, Canada plays itself for a change; the movie was filmed on location in the heart of hockey country, East Toronto. Dingy arenas, grimy locker rooms, low rent boarding houses, and local saloons firmly set the viewer in a place where young men come to take the first step on the bottom rung of the ladder to success.

The sense of realism extended behind the camera as well. Writer/ director Peter Markle was a former minor league hockey player. Cinematographer Mark Irwin held the camera while up on skates himself to put the viewer firmly in the action on the rink. Former Chicago Blackhawk great, Eric Nesterenko pulled double duty serving as the film’s hockey consultant and playing Rob Lowe’s father. Other members of the cast were also professional and amateur hockey players: sharp-eyed viewers will spot a very young Keanu Reeves in an early role as the team’s goalie, giving the actor the chance to relive his real life high-school glory days.

However, hockey experience didn’t extend to the film’s two leads. Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze learned to skate and play for the movie. The solid supporting cast includes Cynthia Gibb as Lowe’s love interest and daughter of the team coach, played by the always dependable Ed Lauter. Lauter was one of the most prolific “that guy” character actors of the last 40 years, and his performance in “Youngblood” helps ground the movie and elevates his scenes.

Like any studio movie of the era, “Youngblood” is filled with 80’s movies pleasures: tight jeans, feathered hair, and questionable behavior among the characters. There’s even a get-in-shape montage set to a synthesizer soundtrack by musician William Orbit. But the movie belongs to Rob Lowe, who despite his youth at the time, demonstrates the charisma, talent, and physical attributes that would make him a sought-after leading man.

Enjoy “Youngblood” along with the thriller “Masquerade” (1988) and the comedy “Illegally Yours” (1988), in our Rob Lowe Movie Marathon, this month on MGM HD.