Bob Probert loved to fight, but documentary on former Red Wing loses its battle

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Bob Probert was a warrior on the ice, a boxer on skates, a guy always looking for a fight. 

That was enough to make him a Detroit sports legend, but the wobbly documentary "Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story" has difficulty standing on its own two feet, and is content recounting the former Red Wing's damaged history.  

Director Geordie Day uses grainy game footage to show what Probert did best: punch people's lights out. Through interviews with teammates, opponents, friends and family members, we hear about Probert's love of fighting, which was only occasionally interrupted by the game of hockey.

He was raised hard by his no-nonsense father in Windsor, who taught him early on to be a tough guy. It worked: when his father died, Probie didn't cry at the funeral. 

He let his emotions out in other ways: through his fists, and later through rampant drug and alcohol abuse. His demons wreaked havoc on his career and his personal life, and Probert died in 2010 at age 45.

Day struggles to find a theme to hold "Tough Guy" together. From a technical standpoint, there are timeline issues — Probert is shown in a Chicago Blackhawks jersey before any mention is made of his trade — and he pulls from inconsistent audio sources, including an unidentified interview with Probert that weaves through most of the film. The overbearing score works overtime to do the film's dramatic heavy lifting, and a trip to the site of Probert's death on Lake St. Clair late in the movie is unnecessary.

Through interviews with Probert's wife and daughters, Day does manage to humanize his subject and show he was more than just a tough guy. But like Probert himself, "Tough Guy" just can't win 'em all. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Tough Guy: The Bob Probert Story'

GRADE: C

Not rated: language, drug content, hockey fighting

Running time: 92 minutes

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