**** (out of 5)
September 15, 2006
The Rock as SEAN PORTER
Xzibit as MALCOLM MOORE
L. Scott Caldwell as BOBBI PORTER
Leon Rippy as PAUL HIGA
Kevin Dunn as TED DEXTER
Jade Yorker as WILLIE WEATHERS
David V. Thomas as KELVIN OWENS
Setu Taase as JUNIOR PALAITA
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Phil Joanou
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
In general, I’m not a big sports fan. Not surprisingly, I’m really a movie buff instead. However, I like a good sports movie when it comes around.
Currently in theaters, we have “Invincible,” the story of Philadelphia Eagles walk-on Vince Papali. Although this film is scoring a touchdown at the box office, I wasn’t very impressed with it. Within a week of seeing the screening of “Invincible,” I also saw the other fall football film, “Gridiron Gang.”
Because I was coming off of “Invincible,” I had low expectations. However, it turned out that I thoroughly enjoyed “Gridiron Gang.” I was hesitant about the film, but it quickly drew me in. Having played team sports when I was in school, I definitely identified with the strong team spirit. By the end of the film, I was ready to declare this film one of the best football movies of late, ranking up there with “Rudy” and “Remember the Titans.”
The film tells the story of correctional counselor Sean Porter (The Rock), who gets increasingly frustrated with the high attrition rate of kids coming into the juvie jail from inner-city L.A. Hoping to find a new way to reach out to them, Porter starts a football team. Of course, he faces plenty of problems, from funding issues to finding opposing teams.
In putting together this rag-tag team, Porter challenges the kids to better themselves. It allows them to focus their rage and destructive emotions into something positive. In short, it helps changes lives.
“Gridiron Gang” has a lot of good things to say. It not only has a positive message about team work and goals, but it also has some strong points to make about gang activities. It doesn’t pull its punches about how dangerous that world is. It doesn’t make the characters misunderstood angels, but reminds us that they are criminals with real violent crimes in their past.
The film also shows the futility of gang activity and how it reverts its members to a lower image. The film doesn’t try to be politically correct, and it points fingers where they should be pointed.
Yes, it gets cheesy, especially with some of the coach speeches that Porter gives. However, as the end credits roll, we’re treated to footage from the original documentary that inspired the film. Not only do we see some of the characters facing the real issues brought up in the film, but we also hear the real coach giving speeches. They are literally word-for-word from the script.
I could have sworn these were overwritten speeches at the hand of a zealous screenwriter. However, I humbly recognize that sometimes coach speeches are cheesy in their own right, and these scenes were entirely authentic.
I like the Rock. It’s too bad he’s had a string of bad films lately. I do hope, however, that “Gridiron Gang” will help turn his career around.