Review #248 of 365
Film: Gridiron Gang (2006) [PG-13] 120 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $13.50
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When 1st Seen: 16 September 2006
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Directed by: Phil Joanou (Final Analysis)
Written by: Jeff Maguire (Timeline) & Jac Flanders
Based On: Jac Falnders's tv documentary "Gridiron Gang"
Featured Cast (Where I Remember Him/Her From):
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson (The Scorpion King) • Xzibit (xXx: The State of the Union & Hoodwinked) • L. Scott Caldwell ("Lost") • Leon Rippy ("Deadwood") • Kevin Dunn (I Heart Huckabees) • Jade Yorker ("Third Watch") • David V. Thomas (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) • Setu Taase (debut) • Mo (Dirty) • James Earl ("ER") • Trever O'Brien (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story)
Soundtrack: Download now from - or - order the CD below
Review Dedicated to: the real Sean Porter
Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
"… a film that will rivet you to your seat and having you cheering in the aisle by the end."
As the practices progress, the team actually begins to look like it is gelling. Porter violates policy risking his job and orders the kids $10,000 worth of equipment they need for real practices and to face their first opponents. They head off for their first game excited and pumped and believing they can become winners at last. They have listened to their coach, done things his way, lost a player to injury during practice, and prepared for the game. Unfortunately, the Panthers have played together for three years, and they are more well prepared. The Mustangs lose their first game 38-0. Worse, Sean's supervisors feel the program must be cancelled because it is not building the desired self-esteem, instead, it is crushing the kids whom all seem to want to quit. Sean is broken hearted, but he his hands are tied, until the next day, when the kids all line up for practice without a coach. From that moment, the film catapults into a new level as the everything about the film gels as well. There is much more excitement and terrible heartbreak to come. We've not seen the last tragedy of Willie's and Kelvin's rival gang war, there's family visit day where parents and guardians don't get what's happening for their kids, there's a realization by Sean that he's becoming more and more like the father he hated all his life, and there's a team rally around Sean's mother's health that will break your heart. In the end, not to spoil it, there is triumph and amazing victory, there are kids that are completely turned around. There is so much excitement and positive energy surrounding the Mustangs and the success of the program that everyone forgets two very important things, and these are the things that still bring me to tears thinking about it now. First, this was/is a program. This is not a real high school football team. These are kids from a broken part of society thrown together and as much as it is an awesome idea and one that should be used everywhere not just with football but with putting on a musical, creating rock bands, science Olympiad teams, etc., nobody should forget for one minute that as hard as you try, as noble your efforts, you cannot wipe out 15-17 years of a kid's priors in one three-month football season. Second, the same temptations that existed before the program exist when the kid is released. If a kid can make $20,000 a month selling crack cocaine vs. $6.50 an hour working in a convenience store, struggling through the rest of high school, struggling through college, to maybe make it out of their 'hood', for some the choice is not so easy to make. So, the picture can seem rosy for all of two hours and then things can come crashing down. The reality is, I'm sorry to say, some of these young men ended back up in prison, some were killed fresh out of jail, and some continued in their gangs. But, and it's a huge but, some went off to high school football scholarships, and some went to college, and some took the convenience store jobs and worked to raise the family they had left behind. Sean Porter realized that he could not save everyone, but isn't it true, even though it's trite, that if even one is saved from their former life, their former self, the entire program was worth it? Facing a 75% figure, something had to be tried. Still hasn't the time come to attack the core of the problem that gets kids in gangs in the first place? It is possible to win the gang war, eliminate the gangs, and give these kids a better future, but it takes a whole army of Sean Porters and Malcolm Moores working together on the issue.
Gridiron Gang is an amazing film. When it comes to building a team, there are few films that have ever been made that show how you take a group of kids that literally hate each other and turn them into a real team. There's much to be learned about coaching as well, for Sean learns that the style of beat them into submission that so many coaches use and so many parents/guardians model, simply doesn't work in the end. You've got to earn the respect of your players by showing them that you care enough to help them when they fail. The performances are equally excellent by the veterans and the new comers to the profession. Phil Joanou has created a film that will rivet you to your seat and having you cheering in the aisle by the end. Do not forget, however, that embedded within there is also a call for understanding of this important societal problem if not a call to action.
Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word review of this film]
Other Projects Featuring Gridiron Gang (2006) Cast Members
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson • Xzibit • L. Scott Caldwell
Leon Rippy • Kevin Dunn
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Gridiron Gang (2006) Review-lite [150-word cap]