The Movie Binge

Review: Gridiron Gang

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While I proudly wear my Urlacher jersey from September through January, being the lone sports fan at the Binge requires me to watch sports movies, which is oftentimes far less entertaining than the real deal. There have been successes (Caddyshack and Slap Shot, duh), but we all know there's a lot of schlock out there. Today, we'll tackle both (holy crap, a pun!) and we'll start with the good.

It was two short weeks ago that I complained about Invincible's lame attempt at pulling my heartstrings, claiming that Marky Mark and Disney couldn't make the magic happen. The Rock is no Mark Wahlberg. I don't know how he did it, but I shed multiple tears during Gridiron Gang and it was the Rock who got me there. Well, it was the Rock and the story of a couple dozen kids from the wrong side of the tracks who decided to turn their lives around.

The Rock is Sean Porter, an officer at Camp Kilpatrick, a juvenille detention center in LA. Many of the kids are gang members, most have multiple offenses and none of them seem to be changing much from their experience in juvey. Porter wants to make a difference and realizes football would teach the kids discipline and give them something positive to work towards. As expected, they succeed, but it's their personal journeys that are inspirational.

Director Phil Jounou does an amazing job of showing both sides of these kids — their rough street attitude and the fragility of their young psyches. We've all had moments where we're forced to let our guard down and take a chance to make things better, but it's moving to see kids who have no future make a turn for the better. I'm rarely swayed by the "inspired by true events" angle, but it made a difference here. As the credits rolled they showed the real Sean Porter talking to the kids, which was followed by kids crying and saying they just want their mothers to love them. How can you not break down?

Some movies are guaranteed to move you to tears (Schindler's List), but I wouldn't put Gridiron in that category. Part of what makes a movie like this effective is your mindframe going in. Thankfully, the Cinecultist beamed about this movie and I went in expecting good things. It doesn't seem like movie critics at large were able to do the same. If you're looking for an uplifting film on a dreary day this fall, please see Gridiron Gang. It won't change the world, but it might put a smile on your face and inspire you to do something good for someone else.