HIFF Review: Kevin Connolly’s ‘Big Shot’ Takes on Islanders Scandal

John Spano in Kevin Connolly's Islanders documentary "Big Shot."
John Spano in Kevin Connolly's Islanders documentary "Big Shot."

Kevin Connolly’s Big Shot tells the story of John Spano, the fake billionaire who nearly bought the New York Islanders hockey team in the mid-to-late ’90s.

Through a series of interviews with those associated with the team, as well as the NHL (and Spano’s childhood friends), the ESPN documentary (part of the 30 For 30 series) goes to great lengths to highlight the legendary status of the Islanders during the early ’80s, while also highlighting the troubling years that followed the team, leading to Spano’s near-intervention.

Even though the film was only around 70+ minutes (it’ll be airing on ESPN in late October), it seemed to drag quite a bit. While not a terrible film by any stretch of the imagination, the events surrounding Spano could easily be boiled down to a half-hour drama, as opposed to stretching on for nearly an hour. After a while, the film becomes a connect the dots of “he doesn’t have the money, the Islanders organization and the NHL were silly not to check his credentials.” There’s so much one can learn by listening Spano talk, considering he’s nothing more than a white collar con man.

Connolly provided a Q & A after the film, which was great; however, one audience member took him to task for not highlighting that Spano is, in effect, what’s wrong with America today. Whether the audience member is right or not, if you’re an Islanders fan and want to relive one of the darkest periods in the team’s history, Big Shot is a great documentary that highlights the glory days while also spending the rest of the film’s 50-minute running time down in the dumps.

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