North Dallas Forty

North Dallas Forty ★★★

Kotcheff's Wake in Fright climaxed with soused yahoos taking potshots at kangaroos. North Dallas Forty opens with a reprise, subbing in cows grazing along a Texas hillside. ("Hell, they're too drunk to hit anything," laughs the quarterback driving the car. "Don't worry about it!") This echo indicates a thread of toxic masculinity tying the two movies together: whether in New South Wales or the NFL, the world abounds with men too full of hate and beer to check their destructive impulses. I don't know shit about football, but I do know beefcake horror. The team puts these bare chests and brawny backs to work like pack animals, goaded forward with pain pills and rah-rah rhetoric. Slowmo replays of a game-winning catch haunt the memory of Nick Nolte's bruised maverick. Pakula paranoia mingles with rude Altmanesque comedy. It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether your body makes it through the game.

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