Monday, September 25, 2006

My Take - Gridiron Gang

My Take on the Movies
A Mini-Review of
By: A. L. “Toni” Anderson

Gridiron Gang (2006) is based on the true story of a group of teenaged male juveniles housed in Los Angeles County’s Camp Kilpatrick in Malibu, California. WWF wrestling champion Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as probation officer and camp counselor Sean Porter. Along with several other of the real life individuals, Porter appears in documentary footage at the end of the film.

The screenplay for the film Gridiron is written by Jac Flanders and Jeff Maguire, and is directed by Phil Joanou (Heaven’s Prisoners - 1996). [The original made-for-television documentary Gridiron Gang (1993) garnered Lee Stanley an Emmy Award.]

Rapper Xzibit (Pimp My Ride) is cast as Malcolm Moore, camp counselor and assistant coach. Leon Rippy (Deadwood) is camp director Paul Higa; Kevin Dunn (All the King’s Men - 2006) is associate camp director Ted Dexter. Willie Weathers, who turns out to be a phenomenal runner, is played by Jade Yorker (Third Watch). Jurnee Smollett (Eve’s Bayou - 1997) is Danyelle, the girl who influences him to be a better man.

As the title implies, the majority of the camp’s residents are gang members, some of whom are murderers and long-time sworn enemies. In the facility and on the street, there is great violence. It is a way of life for the camp’s inhabitants, and is the only method they know of resolving difficulties. As a result, it is not uncommon for residents to return to the facility after being released. Coach Porter is instrumental in turning the destructive behavior around.

Porter’s own background in football and his continuing love for the sport makes the decision to coach a football team a no-brainer. What remains to be seen is whether the proposed team members have what it takes. On the gridiron, the gangs slowly develop into a team, exhibiting loyalty, cohesiveness, and the ability to act in unison. They even prove themselves to be fairly decent football players.

Although the film is based on real-life characters and events, some of the events are altered for the film, and some of the characters are composites of real people.

Much of the filming takes place at the actual facility, which is not scenic by a long shot. The acting here is also not fabulous. The story, however, transcends the film’s shortcomings. Initially, it appears that the violence will overwhelm and practically obliterate the more positive images. Though the violence continues, there is a much greater balance toward the end of the film. Surprisingly, there is reason to laugh and to cheer. As Porter encourages and inspires the players, so is the audience encouraged and inspired. If you can deal with the initial violence, you will be as well. [2:00]

♠ ♠ ♠ ♠

[© 09/24/2006]


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