September 17, 2006

Movie Review: Gridiron Gang

We've all seen this story before. There is no new ground to tread. It always seems like these inspirational films are the same story, only the names and places are different. It doesn't seem to matter if they are based on a true story, or completely constructed in the writer's head, the end result is always the same. This movie is a cliche, sure it's based on a true story, but that doesn't make this story any less cliche than the made up tales.

Simply being cliche does not necessarily make a movie bad. The story can be told in such a way, or the characters written/acted in such a way so that a sense of freshness can be somewhat faked. I don't mean faked in a bad way, but there has to be some sort of manipulation on the part of the creative to make you want to spend your money and sit in a dark theater for two hours. That begs the question, is Gridiron Gang creative enough to be worth spending that time? My answer is yes.

This tale is the story of Sean Porter, a probation officer at juvenile detention center, Camp Kilpatrick. Porter is struggling with the fact that 75% of those troubled youths that pass through their doors end up dead or back in jail. Looking for some way to possibly make a dent, Porter decides to start up a football program.

The thought process behind starting a football team is that it will help teach teamwork, respect, and hard work. Everything that these kids could use to better their lives by translating them into real life experience. So, Sean Porter and his assistant Malcolm Moore, select a team from those under their care, much to the dismay of their superiors who seem to have written these kids off.

The program is not without its hitches. They have to get equipment, find local schools who are willing to field a team against these gang kids, not to mention keeping the team from fighting each other. Sound familiar? Probably, still nothing new to latch onto here.

Something that struck me early on were the strange shifts in tone. There were scenes of gritty violence and murder, comedy, over the top inspiring dramatics, combining into a film that, while entertaining, is rather scattershot in the focus area. For some reason, I enjoyed it being all over the map like that. It adds a touch of realism to the proceedings, life isn't all drama or comedy, it is the combination of a lot of different things, and it seems as if they tried to get all of them together in this film.

I think the biggest reason I liked this was Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. He has a great screen presence, good comedic timing, and is just a good performer. One day he will get that really good script that will allow him to show what he can do. Beyond him, the acting was decent. Xzibit was good in his understated role, as were the kids, particularly Jade Yorker as Willie Weathers.

Bottomline. For some reason, I really enjoyed this movie. I could tell where it was going very early on, this is hardly an original film. The performances were good, it was shot well enough, and I cannot really explain it, but it is a good movie.

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