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  Publicity Stills of "Girdiron Gang"
(Courtesy from Columbia TriStar)

Genre: Drama
Director: Phil Joanou
Cast: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Xzibit, Kevin Dunn, Leon Rippy
RunTime: 2 hrs
Released By: Columbia TriStar
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.sonypictures.net/movies/gridirongang/

Opening Day: 18 January 2007

Synopsis :

Columbia Pictures' Gridiron Gang tells the gritty and powerfully emotional story of juvenile detention camp probation officer Sean Porter (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), who, along with another officer, Malcolm Moore (Xzibit), turns a group of hard core teenage felons into a high school football team in four weeks. Confronted with gang rivalries and bitter hatred between his teammates, Porter teaches some hard lessons (and learns a few himself) as the kids gain a sense of self-respect and responsibility.

In a world where 75% of these juvenile inmates return to prison or meet with violent ends on the streets, Porter and Moore face seemingly insurmountable barriers. No one wants to compete against convicted criminals, but through relentless pursuit and a jolt of inspiration, Porter and his team fight their way to redemption and a second chance.

Based on a true story, Gridiron Gang sends out a message that one man can make a difference and the most hopeless kids in our society can change the course of their lives through hard work, commitment and bold leadership.

Movie Review:

Based on a little watched but fondly remembered Emmy winning documentary of the same name, “Gridiron Gang” is a mega-macho Hollywood remake that follows all the steps of a successful uninspired inspirational sports movie down to a tee. There’s hardly any room to deviate its prototypical underdogs from its own preceding inspirations of urbanised youth caught in a spiral of gangs and overt violence while secretly yearning for a way out. Its relentless but effective use of formula makes this remake an appropriate star vehicle for the “most electrifying man in sports entertainment”.

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is Sean Porter, a juvenile detention facility officer that wants to curb the 75% recidivism rate that plagues the system by introducing a sports initiative (in this case football, the American kind) into the centre that allows the belligerent and highly volatile teenagers to interact as united teammates instead of opposing gangbangers. There’s no doubt that the film aims to give kind-hearted but tough-minded social workers a rise onto a pulpit while almost to the point of ringing bells and crying out that the “system does in fact work!” but only when given the right attention and if apathy is given a swift kick to its behind. Its rah-rah sentimentalities are given a greenlight to work through its trite dialogue that hollers out its idealism from the rafters while basically ignoring its impractically simplistic idea of curing social ills by letting us know that there’s no I in team.

This film does carry a brass set of cajones in its portrayal of boys becoming men but its limited commentary on class, economic and racial divides does little more than peek out from the bylines and is more often likely to be benched in place of hackneyed melodrama involving the temptations of ganglife or yet another rousing speech that’s really neither here nor there. In this respect, its loyalties lie clear, as it’s more “The Longest Yard” than it is “Friday Night Lights” or “Remember the Titans”.

But holding it all together is Dwayne Johnson. He earns his acting stripes here and discards any sort of past association with wrestling, and hopefully his stage name in future as well. It almost seems a role that would have been tailored for him if there weren’t already a Sean Porter who lived and breathed the role. Johnson has a phenomenal physical presence that grounds him with the misfits, the bureaucrats and in the gridiron. He sells to us the idea of team activities that displaces the neglect in the chaotic lives of these economically handicapped youths with teamwork and mental discipline. His work in progress is indeed a work in progress, as he understands it. But by shaping a backstory for Sean Porter, “Gridiron Gang” is able to have at least one well-rounded character in its multi-arc approach.

Yes, cynicism will be a hindrance if the “Gridiron Gang” is to work its effortless charms but its not all smiles and championship playoffs for the gang. As true life often is, its adapted screenplay is a carrier of bittersweet one-offs and sadness.

Movie Rating:

(Massively formulaic but forges a great connection with its star)

Review by Justin Deimen

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