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Review: 'The Crash Reel' and the rush of high-stakes sports

EntertainmentMoviesSpecial OlympicsLucy Walker

There is a pulsating timeliness to "The Crash Reel," Academy Award-winning documentarian Lucy Walker's bracing new film about extreme-sports up-and-comer Kevin Pearce, a gifted snowboarder who wiped out while training for the 2010 Olympics, suffering a coma-inducing traumatic brain injury. A miraculous recovery gave his loving, nurturing family back its son, but Pearce's thirst to re-enter an increasingly dangerous world of stunt-driven one-upmanship sparks in those close to him a new course of worry.

There's no small amount of heartbreak in watching Pearce's brother David, who has Down syndrome and is himself an athlete, with medals in the Special Olympics, routinely express to Kevin his fears for his safety. Through a craftily edited mix of personal video, competition footage, interviews and verite hovering on some intimate conversations between Pearce, his family and doctors, Walker captures a seesaw exhilaration between the thrill of pushing one's limits and the pain of dreams cut short.

With sports journalism increasingly focused on nervy issues of safety and health in today's ever-riskier athleticism, "The Crash Reel" asks pointed questions about hazard, reward and consequence, forcing us to look anew at the rush attached to so many high-stakes sports.

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"The Crash Reel"

Rating: No MPAA rating

Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

Playing at: Laemmle Monica 4.

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