Movie review: Gridiron Gang (2006)
Starring: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Alvin ‘Xzibit’ Joiner, Kevin Dunn, and Leon Rippy.
Directed by: Phil Joanou
In Gridiron Gang, Dwayne Johnson plays a juvenile probation officer named Sean Porter at the Kilpatrick Detention Center who is dismayed at the statistics showing that 75% of the kids who leave their system end up either right back there or in prison, or are shot dead. Sean is agitated, knowing that he could do very little for the kids out there. He figures he needs a new method to help keep these kids from getting killed on the street. Sean and his colleague Malcolm Moore (Alvin ‘Xzibit’ Joiner) decide to install football into their correctional center program, so as to fill up the ‘void’ that the kids experience at the centre where they’re forced to give up their illegal activities as well to teach the kids a sense of responsibility, discipline and to make them feel they’re more than a bunch of losers. That they can be winners too!
However, with only 4 weeks remaining for the football season, the team must sweat it out doubly hard. Porter must overcome numerous odds to form a team that competes with the opposing team and not among themselves as the centre consisted of teenagers from various different street gangs.
The film is loosely based on the true story of the Kilpatrick Mustangs.
The outstanding aspects of the film are definitely the superb acting of the cast and the direction. Mix that up with a feeling of motivation that is given out and we have a really fine movie.
Dwayne Johnson has delivered a fantastic performance. He is believable as a supervisor, as a pushy no-nonsense coach, and as a doting son. He can look tough while dealing with his team and emotional while with his aged mother. Best of all he doesn’t embody the character like a guy trying to prove himself – the familiar trap for aspiring thespians – but plays each moment, whether a bit funny, serious or something in between, with just the right emphasis.
Another central character in the movie is Wille Weathers (Jade Yorker). Wille had killed his abusive step-father which is why he landed up at the detention centre. His cousin, Roger, who was also once at the centre was killed by a rival gang, in a drive-by. He is a brilliant player but is enemies with Kelvin (David Thomas), who is from a rival gang. Slowly, as the movie progresses, it shows how the two learn to play together putting aside their differences and rivalry, how they learn to play as a team and even began to love their team mates. At one point of time, Willie actually saves Kelvin from getting shot in the head by Willie’s own gang member.
On the downside, however, the storyline has nothing new or unusual to offer to its viewers. Its wafer thin plot is predictable and obvious. However, Director Phil Joanou’s handling turns the mundane into the heartening. The on-the-fields shots are shot very well. The different camera angles used is a refreshing and welcome change from the same old. Lively direction, decent background score.
Towards the end of the film, Porter teaches some hard lessons (and learns a few himself) as the kids gain a sense of self-respect and responsibility. The film sends out a message that one man can make a difference and the most hopeless kids in our society can change the course of their lives through hard work, commitment and bold leadership. It comes across as a very grounded, yet motivational film.
While gang struggles and the perils of street life are vividly depicted, the film treads lightly on the race issues as well. This is a film about kids getting a second chance, and the film really celebrates that possibility without trying to overdramatise it.
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