Gridiron Gang

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Giving Troubled Youth a Second Chance

Jan 30, 2007 (Updated Jan 31, 2007)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Very Good

  • Action Factor:

Pros:Dwayne Johnson; The positive message

Cons:Little character development; Too many cliches.

The Bottom Line: This is a good sports movie with a positive message. It isn't a great film, but it is good enough to recommend a viewing.

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

Teenagers have a tough time nowadays with all the pressures of youth and a good number of them succumb to the negative influences surrounding them and turn to a life of juvenile crime. Plenty of rehabilitation centers exist that try to help turn the lives of these kids around but most only achieve a minimal amount of success. But there are a few exceptions and one of them is the focus of this movie, Gridiron Gang, a film about giving kids a second chance.

Movie Facts:

Rating: PG-13
Director: Phil Joanou
Screenplay/Writing Credits: Jeff Macguire, Jac Flanders
Movie Release Date: September 15, 2006
Movie Length: 120 Minutes

Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Xzibit, Kevin Dunn, L. Scott Caldwell, Leon Rippy, Trevor O’Brien, Brandon Smith, Danny Martinez, Maurice McRae, Jurnee Smollett, James Earl, Jade Yorker, Michael Pagan, Dan Martin, Michael Jace

Contents of This Movie:

Los Angeles has its share of juvenile violence and, consequently, its share of juvenile detention centers. One particular center is home to several dozen of L.A’s most troubled youth but it is run by a tough man with grit and determination. His name is Sean Porter (played by Dwayne Johnson) and he and the center supervisor, Malcolm Moore (played by Xzibit), experience the fighting and bad attitudes on a daily basis.

One day, Porter gets an idea in his head that he thinks could help solve many of the problems with the young men in the center. It is widely known that the guys lack discipline and teamwork, so what better way to improve in these areas than by starting a football team? Porter pitches his idea to the people in charge and he wins. After a few tries, he convinces one of the local leagues to allow his guys to play, and the Mustangs are born.

The Mustangs lose their first game badly but coach Porter isn’t ready to give up yet. In spite of continued violence all around him, Porter is convinced his idea will work if given some time. He leads his team all the way to the playoffs, showing the young men on the team that good things come to those who practice restraint, discipline, and teamwork.

Final Thoughts:

Gridiron Gang is a good sports movie based on a true story of a group of young men in a detention center who form a football team and enjoy a great deal of success both on and off the field. The inspiration for this movie comes from Camp Kirkpatrick, a Malibu Youth Center that, in 1990, assembled together a winning football team named the Kirkpatrick Mustangs.

The centerpiece of this movie is actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who plays the role of Sean Porter- a man who is tough as steel on the outside but very gentle and caring on the inside. He is a man who knows from experience that you have to get tough every now and then when you’re dealing with juvenile delinquents but that you also must be aware of the special problems, the lack of self- esteem, the abuse, etc., that detention center youth have endured from the time they were first convicted of a crime to the time they wound up in the confines of a detention center. Johnson fulfills this role quite well and he is one of the movie’s strongest assets.

This movie is based on a true story and this helps add to its believability and realism. However, it isn’t quite as good as some of the other sports films of recent memory mainly because of its lack of character development and endless cliches. I can almost tolerate the cliches because they are expected to some degree in every sports film. But the lack of any character development is a serious flaw in this film. When the movie ends, most of the guys are not much different than they were in the beginning and you don’t feel like you know any of them very well. In part, this is due to the fact that there are too many characters to track but director Phil Joanou still should have done a better job developing some of the characters. The young guys in the movie seem very one- dimensional and even a little stupid.

Most of the young men in this movie play their roles convincingly, even if they are not all very well known in Hollywood. Look closely and you might recognize a few of these guys from other films and from television shows. Some of these young actors have had limited experience in a big- name movie but they all perform up to par in this movie and they help to make it more enjoyable.

One unusual aspect of this sports movie is that it doesn’t contain any real subplots. There is the brief exchange between one of the football players, his girlfriend, her father, and Porter. But this subplot never fully develops. Some might view this lack of subplots as a pro and others might consider it a con. I am undecided because, while I agree that subplots can often add to the quality of an overall movie, they can also become too distracting from the main movie, and this is especially true in sports films.

A few statistics are quoted at the beginning and end of this film, pointing out (among other things) the high incidence of recidivism among the youth at these types of juvenile rehabilitation centers. Also included at the end of the movie are facts about the guys in the film and what their actual counterparts are doing today (remember- this is based on a true story). Many have turned their back on the life of crime but others have not and the movie is honest in its assessments, pointing out the successes as well as the failures. But considering that 75 percent of troubled youth leave the center and return to a life of crime, the success rate at this particular youth detention center is very good and the introduction of football- as well as the tough but fair guidance of the leadership- is one of the primary reasons for the turnaround.

Overall, Gridiron Gang is a good sports film but it doesn’t rank as a great sports film in spite of the fact that it is based on a true story and offers a solid performance from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I could have done without the musical score which tries to sprinkle a little too much emotion on the film and I could have done with more character development and fewer cliches. But this movie is still a decent one to watch, with a moderate amount of inspiration and some good performances all- around, from the leads all the way down to the water boy.

Recommend this product? Yes

Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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