NightSchool Films

Review of Tough Guy in LA Times!

“When Bob Probert retired from professional hockey in 2003, he ended his career with the fourth-most NHL penalty minutes, all time. That’s an impressive feat — not just because of Probert’s uncommon commitment to in-game violence, but because no one amasses 3,300 minutes in the penalty box unless he’s good enough to be on the ice in the first place.

Geordie Day’s documentary “Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story” is based on the book “Tough Guy: My Life on the Edge,” cowritten by Probert and journalist Kirstie McLellan Day, who is Geordie Day’s mother. McLellan Day and Probert’s widow, Dani, completed the book after he died of a heart attack in 2010 at age 45. Day has access to interviews with Probert’s family, plus home videos and exclusive audio tapes — everything a good cine-memoir needs.

He doesn’t waste those resources. “Tough Guy” is a warts-and-all look at a man legendary for his exploits on and off of the ice. Even in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Probert was a throwback, taking on the role of the “enforcer,” picking fights with anyone who tried to push around his teammates. Then, after the games, he drank prodigiously.

That lifestyle took its toll. Probert was a regular at rehab, and was sidelined by team and league suspensions. After he retired, he was slowed by the degenerative brain condition CTE.

Day doesn’t sugarcoat Probert’s problems. What makes “Tough Guy” such a good sports-doc is that it’s unusually honest — both about how much fans loved seeing an old-fashioned bruiser terrorize the NHL, and how that player’s demons inevitably devoured him.”

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