Monday, September 26, 2011

"Gridiron Gang" Tackles Troubled Teens

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 129 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Gridiron Gang (2006)
Running time: 125 minutes (2 hour, 5 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some startling scenes of violence, mature thematic material, and language
DIRECTOR: Phil Joanou
WRITER: Jeff Maguire (based upon the film Gridiron Gang by Jac Flanders)
PRODUCERS: Neal H. Moritz and Lee Stanley
EDITOR: Joel Negron


Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Xzibit, Kevin Dunn, Leon Rippy, Jade Yorker, Trever O’Brien, Brandon Mychal Smith, MŌ, David Thomas, and Setu Taase

Not only is Gridiron Gang a star vehicle for actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, it’s also a sports-infused drama about a group of young men seeking redemption and a second chance to prove their worth to society. The film, released in September of 2006, is based upon “Gridiron Gang,” the 1993 Emmy Award-winning documentary (“Outstanding Individual Achievement in Informational Programming”) that chronicled the creation of the real-life Camp Kilpatrick Mustangs.

Detention camp probation officer, Sean Porter (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), is tired of seeing so many of the former inmates at Camp Kilpatrick return to prison or meet violent ends on the street. Porter comes up with the idea to recruit a group of the current inmates and form a high-school level football team.

However, his superiors, Paul Higa (Leon Rippy) and Dexter (Kevin Dunn), don’t think he can mold the dangerous teenage inmates into a real football team. The team Porter puts together is made up of hardcore felons, and the players often harbor bitter hatred for some of their teammates or are gang rivals. But with spirited co-worker, Malcolm Moore (Xzibit), by his side, Coach Porter just may prove the doubters wrong and turn these troubled young men into a team.

Although bound by the formula of all uplifting sports movies, Gridiron Gang is strong on two fronts. First, the film’s story plays the motley assortment of young cons as vulnerable characters, and the conceit is that they have even the tiniest spark of hope of redemption. This gives the audience a reason to cheer for them while mostly relegating thoughts of these young criminals’ often horrendous crimes to the back of their minds.

Secondly, Dwayne Johnson is a true movie star. He has so much charisma and charm, and the camera lusts after him. He doesn’t just have to smile; he can display any emotion and its looks good on screen. He has “great face,” and every time this movie seems about to slip into the abyss of a tired old sports cliché, The Rock smiles and puts Gridiron Gang up on high.

7 of 10

Saturday, September 29, 2007

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