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'ND40' is my favorite of all the sports movies I've seen. It's both a dark and funny look at professional football, succeeding on both levels, with special emphasis put on the way the pro machinery chews up players and spits them out. There's no doubt who the fictional North Dallas Bulls are supposed to correspond to in real life, and the Dallas Cowboys were none too happy with either the book or the movie. For the rest of us it is first-class entertainment.
The movie abounds with great performances. Nick Nolte is superb as the aging wide receiver, weary in spirit and broken of body. His independence and declining skills are threatening his usefulness to the team. G.D. Spradlin gives one of his usual excellent performances playing the team's amoral head coach. It's the type of role he seems almost to have a patent on.
Some actors in this movie, I suspect, are doing the best work of their careers. Mac Davis plays the fun-loving quarterback who is serious about keeping his position both with the team and the ladies, and knows all the tricks, whether it's before, during, or after the game. Steve Forrest is the millionaire owner who wants nothing in the world more than a Super Bowl championship team. And Bo Svenson and former pro player John Matuszak are a couple of linemen who play by the same rules on the field and off.
It's a complex movie with so much going on in some scenes (just like a football game) that it deserves to be seen more than once. One small quibble: the big game was obviously not filmed before an audience. That doesn't detract too much from the overall picture, but a viewer is aware of it.
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