Released in the winter of 1986, Youngblood has the distinction of being the first R-rated movie I ever saw on my own in a theater. I was only 12 going on 13 at the time, but an older friend worked at the theater and got me in, for free. My hopes were high, the film’s star Rob Lowe (St. Elmo’s Fire) was a dreamboat, his posters from various teen magazines gracing countless bedroom walls. Youngblood might be best described as a kind of Rocky on ice skates. I don’t remember what I thought of the story back in 1986, but watching it now, it certainly wasn’t a high point in Rob Lowe’s career, but the lackluster movie does have brief moments of heart.
Dean Youngblood (Lowe) is a farm boy from rural New York with big dreams of playing professional hockey. While his father (Eric Nesterenko) discourages Dean’s dream, older brother Kelly (Jim Youngs) is his biggest cheerleader. Youngblood heads for a tryout with the Hamilton Mustangs of the Canadian junior league. Any delusions of grandeur are erased, as Dean learns just how competitive is. When he bests the sadistic Racki (George Finn) for a spot on the team, the bigger man vows revenge. Dean’s teammates put him through a nasty hazing process. Eventually, he is befriended by veteran player Derek Sutton (Patrick Swayze, Dirty Dancing) who takes Dean under his wing. At the same time, Dean starts a relationship with team Coach Chadwick’s teen daughter, Jessie (Cynthia Gibb).
With his speed and agility, Dean is skilled enough to be a hockey player, but his subdued personality, and inability to fight make him a liability on the ice. When Sutton is seriously injured by bully Racki in a game, Dean is forced to take a step back, reevaluate his priorities, and decide just how much of himself he’s willing to give, physically, mentally, and morally to the game of hockey.
A product of the MTV era, director Peter Markle (Bat 21) has loaded the film up with various quick cut montages, flashy lighting, and a pulsating score. Rob Lowe apparently learned to skate for this role, kudos to him. However, Youngblood was released at the height of his status as a teen idol, so shots of him without his shirt on, and one in his jock strap are of focus. Cynthia Gibb is fine as the perpetually perky Jessie, but one can’t shake the feeling she was added to the story just to provide some gratuitous nudity in her love scene with Dean. Watching Patrick Swayze in anything makes me realize we lost him way too soon; the always reliable Ed Lautner provides some rough edges as the coach, and watch carefully, and you’ll spot a young Keanu Reeves (The Whole Truth) as a goalie in an early role.
Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Kino Lorber’s 1080p transfer offers a solid upgrade over the previous DVD release. There is a nice level of filmic grain throughout. Color is impressive, highlighting rich reds, and blues. Skin tones appear natural. There’s a bit of noise during a couple of the darker scenes, but nothing that affects the overall viewing experience.
The audio transfer is a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel, and the film has plenty of hockey-related effects, from body checks to skate blades carving the ice, they all come through convincingly. The film has a score by William Orbit, but also includes several pop songs by Diana Ross and the Supremes, and Jefferson Starship, among others.
English subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary By Director Peter Markle
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:35)
Movie title: Youngblood
Director(s): Peter Markle
Actor(s): Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze , Cynthia Gibb , Ed Lauter , Keanu Reeves , Fionnula Flanagan
Genre: Romance, Sport, Drama