George Roy Hill‘s Slap Shot (’77) has gotten better with each successive re-viewing. Nancy Dowd‘s screenplay is based on her brother Ned’s rough-and-tumble experience with the Johnstown Jets, a minor-league Pennsylvania hockey team. And yes, in the early to mid ’70s violence was a serious selling point with the low-rent fans.

But the film doesn’t feel “realistic”…not really or fully. It may take a while during your first viewing, but it gradually hits you that Slap Shot is a brilliantly sustained farce — partly a satire of crude, working-class lifestyles and sensibilities, and partly a kind of valentine to same.

Assembled and finessed to a fare-thee-well (dp Victor Kemper and editor Dede Allen are a dynamic duo), it’s a blend of grim blue-collar realism and coarse slapstick. The characters are all trapped in a kind of blue-collar, no-exit hellscape, but only a couple of them (the married malcontents played by Michael Ontkean and Lindsay Crouse) succumb to anything close to lethargy. Everyone else is indefatigable.

And the violence is hilarious. Damn near every line is about making fun of these yokels, and yet Hill and Dowd clearly love them. It’s almost spooky how intoxicating it all is. Except, that is, for the climactic striptease-on-the-ice scene, which I’ve never believed.