Express

5 ratings (5 Epinions reviews)
Epinions Product Rating: Very Good
5 stars
4 stars
4
3 stars
1
2 stars
1 star
Share This!
  Ask friends for feedback

Triumph and Tragedy and Dubious History in Telling the Ernie Davis Story

Feb 6, 2012
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Action Factor:

Pros:well-shot football scenes with credible Rob Brown

Cons:historical inaccuracies undercut the value of showing the history

The Bottom Line: What's the term for "gilding the lily" for negative lilies?


Plot Details: This opinion reveals everything about the movie's plot.



I don’t know why I wanted more football after the cliff-hanger Super Bowl, but I pulled the 2008 “The Express” off the shelf, despite its running length (130 minutes). I thought the movie was fairly standard sports movie triumph of the underdog with racial dynamics similar to those in the basketball uplift “Glory Road” (2006). not least Texas racists (Texas A&M fans there, Cotton Bowl UT fans here.

The “Elmira Express,” Ernie Davis (played by Rob Brown [Finding Forrester]), the first black winner of the Heisman Trophy in 1961 (and 1960 Cotton Bowl MVP) was a genuine role model” “a credit to his race” during the Civil Rights struggle, absorbing cheap hits and racial epithets while excelling at Syracuse University, where he was recruited by Jim Brown (Darin Dewitt Henson) and assigned Brown’s jersey number 44 by crusty coach Ben Schwartzwalder (Dennis Quaid [The Alamo, Far From Heaven]), as if Davis needed more pressure. The cheap shots begin in practice and continue with white referees (the only kind there was then) ignoring them in games.

The triumph (the Heisman Trophy and meeting with President Kennedy) are followed by tragedy in the form of leukemia, but the “Brian’s Song” aspect is downplayed, as is any life Davis may have had away from football, though he has a loyal girlfriend (Sarah Ward) in some scenes.

There is a lot of football action in the movie that is gripping and almost believable. The  UT defensive stars look very old to me, and both Brown and Henson look leaner than the great athletes they are playing.

I am glad that Ernie Davis was commemorated, but again (as with “Coco and Igor”) was frustrated by some historical inaccuracies and puzled by others. To reiterate my position on biopics and historical movies, telescoping characters and events is acceptable practice, and sins of omission are tolerable, but falsifying known facts is not.

That Davis did not play a single down as a Cleveland Brown and died of leukemia at the age of 23 are facts, but it was not his leukemia that accounted for the former. Rather, (new) owner Art Modell traded (future professional football hall of famer) Bobby Mitchell, who had been the Browns’ starting halfback alongside fullback Jim Brown) to Washington without consulting (long-time) coach Paul Brown, who not only refused to play Davis (who had been cleared by doctors), but refused to allow him to suit up to be introduced with the starting lineup before an exhibition game. IMO both Modell and Brown and also Redskins owner George Preston Marshall were s.o.b.s (and Marshall integrated the Redskins only under considerable pressure from the Kennedy Administration). Moreover, having grown up a fan of black Uniontown, PA quarterback Sandy Stephens, who led the University of Minnesota to a National Championship and a Rose Bowl victory, I find the representation of Modell as a champion of racial equality suspect. (Jim Brown was already there when Modell acquired the team.) The Browns drafted Stephens but made it clear that he would not be allowed to play quarterback (and he went to the Canadian Football League, where he did).

The Brown/Modell conflict, which soon (1/9/1963) led to Brown’s termination would distract from the Ernie Davis story, so I regard its omission as acceptable simplification. Why the opponent of the exhibition game was made the Chicago Bears instead of the Pittsburgh Steelers doesn’t matter, though I don’t see any reason to make the change. The 1959 game at Morgantown, West Virginia University’s Mountaineer Field, has the most virulently racist crowd throwing epithets, bottles, etc. and Coach Schwartzwalder acceding to local pressure not to let his black star score so that the team may get out alive. But the UWV game was a home game in Syracuse!

The extent of UT Longhorn dirty playing in the 1960 Cotton Bowl  is a matter of continuing controversy, but Coach Schwartzwalder did not keep Davis in the locker room at the start of the second half, and the win by Syracuse (already declared the National Champion before the game against second-ranked Texas) was not preserved by Davis forcing himself back onto the field with Syracuse’s lead reduced to one point. Texas scored last, but was still 9 points down. Yes, the movie’s game is more dramatic, but this misrepresentation undercuts the veracity of the movie.

And this is followed by the Syracuse team refusing to go to collect the Cotton Bowl trophy at a segregated country club. The whole team, including Cotton Bowl MVP, went and collected the trophy. The country club would not allow the black players to stay for the dinner and dance, however, and most of the Syracuse white players left with the barred black ones. (I guess, this could fit into the simplifying history category, along with the simplification of Jim Brown’s character.)

The DVD has lots of bonus features,* though too little of the real Ernie Davis playing football (for 1960 Cotton Bowl highlights, including what looks like local refereeing taking away a Syracuse touchdown just before halftime and two two-point conversions by Davis, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3W1jFlKz5s).

The bonus features make me round up a 3.5-star rating for the movie.

* Pasting the list:
Making of  The Express”
Making History: The Story of Ernie Davis
Inside the Playbook, shooting the football game
From Hollywood to Syracuse, the Legacy of Ernie Davis
50th Anniversary of 1959 Syracuse National Championship
Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by Director Gary Fleder
Feature Commenatry with Director Gary Fleder


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD


Share this product review with your friends   
Share This!


Related Deals You Might Like...

Baseball Express Men's Open Bottom Piped Baseball Pants 

Baseball Express Men's Open Bottom Piped Baseball Pants 

Baseball Express Men's Open Bottom Hemmed Piped Baseball Pants Durable pants with piping that can withstand the rigors of the diamond. 15 oz. poly dou...
Baseball Express

$16.87

+$6.95 shipping
Team Express Gear Dark Green Mesh Shorts - soccer team express apparel performance bottoms men's

Team Express Gear Dark Green Mesh Shorts - soccer team express apparel performance bottoms men's

eXtreme mesh and cationic colorfast polyester. denier tricot mesh. Double thickness body. / covered elastic drawcord. Inseam. Imported. Adult Size...
Soccer Team Express
Express Midi Pencil Skirt With Front Ruffle With Tag Ships Free

Express Midi Pencil Skirt With Front Ruffle With Tag Ships Free

EXPRESS PENCIL MIDI SKIRT WITH RUFFLE Pencil midi skirt featuring ruffle down the front with rear slit.Size 2 New with Tag FREE SHIPPING CLICK HERE FO...
eBay

$34.90

+$3.22 shipping
Express Blues Juniors Slim Classic Blue Jeans 5-6-regular

Express Blues Juniors Slim Classic Blue Jeans 5-6-regular

NWT EXPRESS BLUES JUNIORS SLIM CLASSIC BLUE JEANS 5-6-REGULAR Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge MANUFACTURER:EXPRESS BLUES FABRIC: CO...
eBay

$8.49

+$8.49 shipping
Dancer Only Express Yourself Top

Dancer Only Express Yourself Top

The Express Yourself Collection Dancer Only Express Yourself Top is an elegant transition top which will create a fashion statement. Features a power ...
DanceWear Corner
Express Route Board

Express Route Board

Childbrite's Express Route Board will provide hours of fun in your childcare center. It features 35 feet of routes and includes turnouts, crossovers, ...
SCHOOLSin
Team Express Gear Royal Mesh Shorts - Medium - soccer team express apparel performance bottoms men's

Team Express Gear Royal Mesh Shorts - Medium - soccer team express apparel performance bottoms men's

eXtreme mesh and cationic colorfast polyester. denier tricot mesh. Double thickness body. / covered elastic drawcord. Inseam. Imported. Adult Size...
Soccer Team Express
Baseball Express Youth Open Bottom Piped Baseball Pants 

Baseball Express Youth Open Bottom Piped Baseball Pants 

Baseball Express Youth Open Bottom Hemmed Piped Baseball Pants Durable pants with piping that can withstand the rigors of the diamond. 15 oz. poly dou...
Baseball Express

$19.87

+$6.95 shipping
Team Express Gear Women's Fastpitch Softball Pants

Team Express Gear Women's Fastpitch Softball Pants

Team Express Gear Fastpitch Solid Softball Pants (belt not included) Value Priced but Loaded with Features Pant is designed with a lowrise 2 elastic w...
Softball Sales

$12.87

+$6.95 shipping
Western Express Womens Chocolate Hatband with Clear Rhinestones

Western Express Womens Chocolate Hatband with Clear Rhinestones

Add some shine to your look and accessorize with Western Express.. Leather hatband. Band is adorned with beautiful clear rhinestones. Measures 1/2 wid...
Sheplers

$19.40

+$7.50 shipping