Odessa, Texas, is a small, town in Texas. Racially divided and economically dying, there is one night that gives the town something to live for: Friday Night. The Permian Panthers have a big winning tradition in Texas high school football, led by QB Mike Winchell and superstar tailback Boobie Miles, but all is not well, as Boobie suffers a career-ending injury in the first game of the season. Hope is lost among citizens in Odessa, and for the team, but Coach Gary Gaines, who believes that "Perfection is being able to look your friends in the eye and know you did everything you could not to let them down", is somehow able to help the team rise up from the ashes and make a huge season comeback. Now on their way to state, the Panthers must go out and be perfect, because they may never matter this much for the rest of their lives. Written by
To be honest, I went to this movie primarily to see Christian Kane, but the reviews had been excellent. I expected a cross between All the Right Moves and Remember the Titans, but it was nothing like the second, which was about two coaches forced to make their teams blend into one while avoiding racial problems. There were elements of All the Right Moves, though, as several of the young men expressed their desire to get out of Odessa through football, but the movie focused on several of them rather than just one. Its best companion piece in my opinion is the Texas Cheerleader Murder, which shows the same football madness from the other gender as they will do anything to be cheerleaders!
Billy Bob Thornton was excellent as the coach, facing pressure on all sides to win the state championship. An excellent touch was the large number of for sale signs on his lawn after his team was blown away in the game following Boobie's injury. The community put pressure on the boys as well, everyone who owned a state championship ring from prior years pushing them in the kids' faces. Tim McGraw was a revelation as Brian's abusive father, and the actress who was Mike Winchell's mother gave a brilliant performance.
All of the young actors were excellent, especially Derek Luke as the unfortunate Boobie. He made the audience feel his pain and frustration. Lucas Black, who had done such a marvelous job in American Gothic, has a face that reflects his pain as he faces all of his tribulations, which include the pressure of suddenly becoming the team's best hope when Boobie is out and of having a mother with mental and/or emotional problems. Every one of them is a gem.
The cinematography was outstanding, and the shots of the town and the bleak surroundings certainly demonstrated why the kids wanted to get away. Despair hung in the air, with people clinging to their moments of glory as the only happy days of their entire lives. This was its primary likeness to All the Right Moves, although the hated home town was a Pennsylvania steel town (Johnstown, PA, which I escaped from myself), not a Texas prairie city.
And what made things even more intense was that this was a true story. Showing the boys' fates at the end was an excellent conclusion.
And Christian Kane? I knew he only had a cameo, as he had told Peter Berg that he'd love to be in the movie and would take any part there was. He was the man in the restaurant/bar who asked Mike Winchell if he'd take a picture with him & his kid. He was long-haired, unshaven, and, to be honest, if I'd seen him this way first, I'd never have given him a second look. He did a good job as a "good ole boy," though!
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