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Gridiron Gang (DVD)

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The film does get a little cheesy and corny – but which football film, doesn’t it? – but the real-life story that’s being told is still very engaging, Phil Joanou’s direction is slick and effective, and The Rock is like a darn magnet – drawing your eyes back to the screen, even when they’re about to look elsewhere.


The Rock,Xzibit, L. Scott Caldwell, Leon Rippy, Kevin Dunn, Jade Yorker, David V. Thomas, Setu Taase

Most people see football movies as washing powder – they pretty much look the same, pretty much do the same thing, and there’s nothing that hasn’t been done with them. But like washing powder, the genre has actually produced some very different beasts – in fact, no football movie is exactly alike another – they all have different uses and all vary with the end result.

“Friday Night Lights” and “Varsity Blues” were fixated on spreading the gospel of football as religion (where it most definitely is in Texas), “Rudy” centred on the merits of one special player, “The Longest Yard” (especially the remake) and “The Replacements” were mainly interested in giving the funny bone a work out, “Remember the Titans” had its sights on your heart, and with “Any Given Sunday”, Oliver Stone told us that football is just as important – if not more so – than life itself.

Though “Gridiron Gang” borrows a few elements from each of those films – its got the passé heart-warming tale of the underdogs doing well, for one – it too has its own special purpose: in this case, to demonstrate the power of rehabilitation through the mere discipline associated with playing the game.

Based on a true story (as retold in the 1993 documentary of the same name), the film sees new-age action hero The Rock (“Walking Tall”, “Welcome to the Jungle”) wear the whistle of real-life hero Sean Porter, a probation officer charged with the job of rehabilitating “the losers” – kids that have been sent there for severe crimes, like murder or robbery – of Camp Kilpatrick. Perplexed and appalled by the alarmingly rate of recidivism (as high as 75 percent) among his troubled young charges, Porter and his colleague Malcolm Moore (a subdued and very effective Xzibit) come up with a plan: start a football team. Through that, they’ll learn about the importance of a team, regain some dignity and feel like they do have something left to show the world.

With “Gridiron Gang”, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson gets to prove he’s more than just, well, the next Schwarzenegger or Stallone – which most have pegged him up till now – and show us he’s actually got what it takes to break out of that action-hero box. His performance in this film is gold – almost Denzel Washington gold. It’s a multi-layered turn that pushes the film to much better heights than what it might’ve been with someone we couldn’t relate to, or didn’t care as much about. The guy is just so likeable. And there are a few scenes here, which he’ll truly steal your heart in. This is undeniably The Rock’s best film to date.

The film does get a little cheesy and corny – but which football film, doesn’t it? – but the real-life story that’s being told is still very engaging, Phil Joanou’s direction is slick and effective, and The Rock is like a darn magnet – drawing your eyes back to the screen, even when they’re about to look elsewhere.

It goes without saying that “Gridiron Gang” kicks more goals than it misses them.

Commentary, Deleted scenes and featurettes on the DVD.

Rating :
Reviewer : Clint Morris

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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