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2013 | 2012 | 2006

2 items from 2006


Gridiron Gang

16 September 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Hollywood has always loved tales of redemption -- the poor, downtrodden or otherwise disenfranchised finding their true value with the help of an inspirational mentor. Sometimes the formula works. Unfortunately in "Gridiron Gang", Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is about as inspirational as a yawn.

A true story, based on an award-winning documentary, about Inner City kids in juvenile detention who come together to forge a winning football team, is great material, but the film never catches fire. With rabid interest in the new football season and a major marketing blitz by Sony, the film could score a few early touchdowns in its first weekend but should tail off quickly after that.

Johnson plays Sean Porter, a dedicated probation officer at Camp Kilpatrick, the last stop for teenage gang members and violent offenders before the state locks them up with adults.

Frustrated by the frequency with which the kids return to the camp after being released, he imagines that by creating a football team he can instill discipline and a sense of self-worth in his charges. In other words, he's a man on a mission, and he's got plenty of work to do.

First, he must get the institution to go along with his plan. That means convincing reluctant camp director Paul Higa (Leon Rippy) and his assistant Dexter (Kevin Dunn) that it can work, and then finding other high school coaches willing to compete against convicted felons.

Then he has to put the team together. These kids, most of them from the Los Angles area, and many from rival gangs, already live in an environment of distrust and hatred.

His main reclamation project is Willie Weathers (Jade Yorker), a surly youth who killed his mother's boyfriend after losing his cousin in a drive-by shooting. Then there's his gang nemesis Kelvin (David Thomas), the angry Samoan Junior Palaita (Setu Taase), the team's water boy and mascot Bug (Brandon Mychal Smith) and the white but-not-too-trashy Kenny Bates (Trever O'Brien). In this sanitized version of street life, none of them are really bad kids, they just made bad choices.

Porter peppers them with uplifting messages about grit and determination and not being losers anymore. And -- surprise, surprise -- after numerous hardships and disappointments, the Mustangs, as they are called, become a self-respecting team that wins enough games to make it to the regional championship.

Director Phil Joanou, making his first feature in seven years, does a nice job giving the film a gritty, lived-in quality (much of the picture was shot at the real Camp Kilpatrick in the Santa Monica Mountains), and the football sequences, coached by Alan Graf, look and sound like The Real Thing. But screenwriter Jeff Maguire hasn't given them enough to work with.

The characters all have back stories -- Porter's mother is dying and he hates his father; Weathers is trying to go straight and win back his girlfriend; Junior longs to be reunited with his 2-year-old -- but not the depth to make them seem like anything more than types.

At an unbelievable 126 minutes, the film is bloated with story; too many things happen, mostly setbacks, to allow the movie to gather any momentum and soar, as this kind of picture must do to succeed. But Johnson is the real problem because the film is built around him. He is the latest in a long line of muscular hunks who don't so much emote as deliver lines. But in fairness, it is not easy to sell dialogue like, "accept this challenge and I promise you, you'll be winners."

Lensing by Jeff Cutter, production design by Floyd Albee, editing by Joel Negron and other tech credits are good enough to draw you into the film; unfortunately, there's nothing to keep you there.

GRIDIRON GANG

Sony Pictures

Columbia Pictures presents in association with Relativity Media an Original Film production

Credits:

Director: Phil Joanou

Screenwriter: Jeff Maguire

Executive producers: Michael Rachmil, Shane Stanley, Ryan Kavanaugh, Lynwood

Spinks

Producers: Neal H. Moritz, Lee Stanley

Director of photography: Jeff Cutter

Production designer: Floyd Albee

Music: Trevor Rabin

Co-producer: Amanda Cohen

Costume designer: Sanja Milkovic Hays

Editor: Joel Negron. Cast: Coach Sean Porter: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

Malcolm Moore: Xzibit

Ted Dexter: Kevin Dunn

Paul Higa: Leon Rippy

Willie Weathers: Jade Yorker

Kenny Bates: Trever O'Brien

Bug: Brandon Mychal Smith

Leon Hayes: Mo

Kelvin Owens: David Thomas

Junior Palaita: Setu Taase

Donald Madlock: James Earl III

Jamal Evans: Jamal Mixon

Danyelle Rollins: Jurnee Smollett

MPAA rating PG-13

Running time -- 126 minutes »

Permalink | Report a problem


Gridiron Gang

15 September 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Hollywood has always loved tales of redemption -- the poor, downtrodden or otherwise disenfranchised finding their true value with the help of an inspirational mentor. Sometimes the formula works. Unfortunately in Gridiron Gang, Dwayne The Rock Johnson is about as inspirational as a yawn.

A true story, based on an award-winning documentary, about inner city kids in juvenile detention who come together to forge a winning football team, is great material, but the film never catches fire. With rabid interest in the new football season and a major marketing blitz by Sony, the film could score a few early touchdowns in its first weekend but should tail off quickly after that.

Johnson plays Sean Porter, a dedicated probation officer at Camp Kilpatrick, the last stop for teenage gang members and violent offenders before the state locks them up with adults.

Frustrated by the frequency with which the kids return to the camp after being released, he imagines that by creating a football team he can instill discipline and a sense of self-worth in his charges. In other words, he's a man on a mission, and he's got plenty of work to do.

First, he must get the institution to go along with his plan. That means convincing reluctant camp director Paul Higa (Leon Rippy) and his assistant Dexter (Kevin Dunn) that it can work, and then finding other high school coaches willing to compete against convicted felons.

Then he has to put the team together. These kids, most of them from the Los Angles area, and many from rival gangs, already live in an environment of distrust and hatred.

His main reclamation project is Willie Weathers (Jade Yorker), a surly youth who killed his mother's boyfriend after losing his cousin in a drive-by shooting. Then there's his gang nemesis Kelvin (David Thomas), the angry Samoan Junior Palaita (Setu Taase), the team's water boy and mascot Bug (Brandon Mychal Smith) and the white but-not-too-trashy Kenny Bates (Trever O'Brien). In this sanitized version of street life, none of them are really bad kids, they just made bad choices.

Porter peppers them with uplifting messages about grit and determination and not being losers anymore. And -- surprise, surprise -- after numerous hardships and disappointments, the Mustangs, as they are called, become a self-respecting team that wins enough games to make it to the regional championship.

Director Phil Joanou, making his first feature in seven years, does a nice job giving the film a gritty, lived-in quality (much of the picture was shot at the real Camp Kilpatrick in the Santa Monica Mountains), and the football sequences, coached by Alan Graf, look and sound like The Real Thing. But screenwriter Jeff Maguire hasn't given them enough to work with.

The characters all have back stories -- Porter's mother is dying and he hates his father; Weathers is trying to go straight and win back his girlfriend; Junior longs to be reunited with his 2-year-old -- but not the depth to make them seem like anything more than types.

At an unbelievable 126 minutes, the film is bloated with story; too many things happen, mostly setbacks, to allow the movie to gather any momentum and soar, as this kind of picture must do to succeed. But Johnson is the real problem because the film is built around him. He is the latest in a long line of muscular hunks who don't so much emote as deliver lines. But in fairness, it is not easy to sell dialogue like, "accept this challenge and I promise you, you'll be winners."

Lensing by Jeff Cutter, production design by Floyd Albee, editing by Joel Negron and other tech credits are good enough to draw you into the film; unfortunately, there's nothing to keep you there.

GRIDIRON GANG

Sony Pictures

Columbia Pictures presents in association with Relativity Media an Original Film production

Credits:

Director: Phil Joanou

Screenwriter: Jeff Maguire

Executive producers: Michael Rachmil, Shane Stanley, Ryan Kavanaugh, Lynwood

Spinks

Producers: Neal H. Moritz, Lee Stanley

Director of photography: Jeff Cutter

Production designer: Floyd Albee

Music: Trevor Rabin

Co-producer: Amanda Cohen

Costume designer: Sanja Milkovic Hays

Editor: Joel Negron. Cast: Coach Sean Porter: Dwayne The Rock Johnson

Malcolm Moore: Xzibit

Ted Dexter: Kevin Dunn

Paul Higa: Leon Rippy

Willie Weathers: Jade Yorker

Kenny Bates: Trever O'Brien

Bug: Brandon Mychal Smith

Leon Hayes: Mo

Kelvin Owens: David Thomas

Junior Palaita: Setu Taase

Donald Madlock: James Earl III

Jamal Evans: Jamal Mixon

Danyelle Rollins: Jurnee Smollett

MPAA rating PG-13

Running time -- 126 minutes »

Permalink | Report a problem


2013 | 2012 | 2006

2 items from 2006


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