Sunday, February 5, 2012

Review: "North Dallas Forty" is Proud to Be a Muck-Racking Drama

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 122 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

North Dallas Forty (1979)
Running time: 118 minutes (1 hour, 58 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Ted Kotcheff
WRITERS: Peter Gent, Frank Yablans, and Ted Kotcheff (from the novel by Peter Gent)
PRODUCER: Frank Yablans
EDITOR: Jay Kamen

DRAMA/SPORTS with elements of comedy

Starring: Nick Nolte, Mac Davis, Charles Durning, Dayle Haddon, Bo Svenson, John Matuszak, Steve Forrest, G.D. Spradlin, and Dabney Coleman

North Dallas Forty is a 1979 sports movie that is set in the world of 1970s professional football. The film is based on the 1973 novel of the same name by former NFL-player turned novelist, the late Peter Gent.

Phillip “Phil” Elliot (Nick Nolte) is a pro football player – specifically a wide receiver on the Dallas franchise (a thinly veiled version of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys). Elliot smokes marijuana, sleeps around with sports groupies, drinks a lot, but he plays through injuries. His rebellious attitude and his tendency to ask the kind of questions that the team management doesn’t want to answer have him in hot water. His coach, B.A. Strothers (G.D. Spradlin), won’t put him in the starting lineup, and his best friend, Seth Maxwell (Mac Davis), the team’s star quarterback, thinks that Phil should just shut up sometimes. There’s a big game coming up in Chicago that will decide if Dallas gets in the playoffs, and it just may also decide Phil’s future.

North Dallas Forty remains a gritty football flick, a gridiron classic that is timeless in its portrayal of the Machiavellian front office maneuvering, favoritism, and politics of big-time professional football. This film’s unvarnished look and its rough portrayal of football life may not resemble the glitzy pro football that the NFL and its media cohorts sell us, but North Dallas Forty is about the NFL’s brand of football.

The acting isn’t all that great, but works in the context of this movie; the film also gets preachy towards the end. However, the film’s portrayal of how the players strive to win and the gut-wrenching physical pain they endure to keep playing makes North Dallas Forty a riveting sports flick. When you see team owners and management bullying and extorting players to take dangerous drugs and horrid shots of painkillers so that they can play through pain and injury (which actually makes it worse), you’ll know that you’re watching honest-to-goodness, in-your-face, muck-racking cinema.

7 of 10

Friday, June 02, 2006


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