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The Express
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The Express More at IMDbPro »

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5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Underrated

7/10
Author: TamPalm from United States
12 October 2008

Really I think more like a 6.5 or 6.75 is a more appropriate rating. But it DEFINITELY deserves higher than the 5.4 it has now on this site! Wow, I was surprised to see such a low score. The movie is not the best movie ever, but it is good. The acting is stellar. The story is inspirational. It's a feel-good movie and it's family-friendly to boot, which warrants some kind of kudos in my book. I think the plot could have been fleshed out a little more, and perhaps a better writer or director (I have no idea who wrote or directed this by the way) could have brought more drama and impact to the script. But even with a mediocre script, it's a memorable movie. My criteria is this: if I'm thinking about the movie after I walk out of the theater, it's a winner. This story touched me and it was delivered in a way that hit that "special" place in my heart, and I'm not a pansy. So I say, give it a try. You won't be bored, you might not be thrilled, but you will smile and feel all tingly inside, and isn't that just about enough? I think so. See it.

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6 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

An uplifting and inspiring tale.

7/10
Author: Jamie Ward from United Kingdom
9 December 2008

Sending off the film in a monologue which encapsulates his entire story, lead character Ernie Davis (Rob Brown) concedes to the fact that he doesn't quite know how to end his story; it's a desirable lack of focus for a man who doesn't necessarily want to tell a structurally sound story, but a powerful and important message about his struggle instead. Yet this sometimes off balanced narrative unwittingly carries through onto this, the big screen adaptation of young Ernie Davis' story, and the movie as a result is worse off, no matter how faithful it may adhere to the source material which borrows largely from the main character's real life biography. The Express for all intents and purposes retains the important elements of Davis' short but inspiring tale, backing up the movie's hard hitting themes with solid heart, soul and passion; yet lumbered with a force-fed implementation that sacrifices the stories emotional integrity for mawkish melodrama, the feature too often looses its footing when it really counts. Nevertheless, with some fitting performances, stark photography and an endlessly inspiring story of unity, social injustice and change, The Express still manages to overcome its weaker moments to make a greater whole.

Told through the eyes of up and coming black American football sensation Ernie Davis, The Express delivers a two punch game that fights on two fields which turn out to be one in the same. Ostensibly the feature is about Ernie's battle to the top of the game back in its earliest days when to be black was looked upon as something of a weakness or automatic disqualification from being taken seriously. On this purely face value level, the movie does well; it has the building structure and bubbling tension needed to create the necessary highs and lows of a typical, engrossing sports movie. Watching Ernie is like watching a legend, and that's exactly what it should be like. Sure enough the man is more or less untouchable in the movie's first two thirds, but showing his weaknesses on field would be superfluous at best. Instead the script leaves much of Davis' conflict and hardship to be faced off the pitch, even when he's playing on it. At its heart, The Express is a moral tale of people coming together and letting parts of themselves go that maybe they hadn't thought through quite thoroughly enough; at its core, The Express is about racial discrimination. Counterbalancing the much more visceral aspects of the feature with this emotive, heart felt drama; the movie achieves both a sense of wonder and relevancy that still rings true to this day.

Despite the script's well intentioned spirit however, all does not go well when it is finally given transition to the big screen. Director Gary Fleder and composer Mark Isham too often inject the feature with an overbearing, sometimes sickening level of sugar coated melodrama. From the sweeping strings of Isham's sentimentally ridden compositions to Fleder's insistence on emphasising start contrasts between the stories dark and light moments, The Express sometimes boils down to mere caricature that belittles the ideas that the script is trying to get across. Thankfully though, all is not lost in either of their abilities; Isham does far better when scoring for the movie's faster moving segments and Fleder gets some hard hitting and poignant performances out of his main cast. The movie's central performances from Rob Brown and Dennis Quaid are nothing of any remarkable significance, but they serve their purposes well and do justice to the characters that they are playing; sure enough Quaid can be his withdrawn, wooden self from time to time, but his presence is a fine mixture of warm and cold, enough to make the relationship between the two main characters compelling to watch develop.

As engrossing as this can all be though, it's oft hard to swallow some of what the movie tries so hard to press upon you; it's a film that tries to raise questions whilst simultaneously answering without being too cynical, and for the most part, does that well enough, even if it is all a little too dependant on sucrose for its own good. So while watching The Express can feel a little like getting force-fed an over-sized, over-iced and over-baked cake to chow down on for two hours, the end result is at least in itself, satisfying. Telling a story of perseverance against the most uncomfortable of challenges whilst at the same time incorporating themes of friendship, family and even a little football into the mix, The Express is a movie that is more about the substance beneath rather than the sometimes troublesome crust that encompasses. It takes a long time to get there, and arguably ends far too late, but for anyone looking for an uplifting and inspiring tale of one man changing the course of history forever, then The Express should do well enough.

- A review by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)

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7 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Disappointed

4/10
Author: jacobson98 from Arlington, VA
6 January 2009

I'm old enough to remember both Jim Brown and Ernie Davis and really looked forward to seeing this film. Even my wife wanted to see it because she went to high school in Elmira with Ernie. And the reviews said it was a cut above the typical sports movie. Alas, it wasn't.

Just about every sports cliché eventually appears. Further, the film is very slow and really doesn't show the development of Ernie. The movie has ambitions to be much more than a sports movie but doesn't realize any of them. You don't walk away knowing any more about what it was like to be black back in the 40's and 50's and what race relations were like. I suspect that this film will get to video very quickly.

I rated this a 4 -- it's two hours of my life wasted.

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7 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Catch the Express!

9/10
Author: russellgrace from United States
21 October 2008

Lately, I haven't been particularly excited or motivated about running out and seeing Hollywood films like I once did. Frankly, life is quite busy now and my well worn living room is far more convenient, comfortable, affordable, and enjoyable than most modern movie going environs.

What can I say? The movie biz is a dog eat dog world and we're all living in a wait for the used DVD era.

Being an armchair sportswriter and a bit of a homebody has made it pretty tough to beckon me out from my humble but cozy abode. Leaving mi casa means fighting through Los Angeles traffic, enduring rude audiences, sticky floors, snooty attendants, and exorbitantly loco cineplex prices all to experience a picture the old fashioned way... on the big screen. It has become a rare event.

But every now and then a certain film bursts through the minutia to call me out and force me to enter one of those El Grande I-MAX theatres.

One such film had me at hello - The Express.

Ernie Davis' amazing life story is not only poignant in regards to football, race, and the American past - it also reflects today's America in respect to the central issue of the 2008 Presidential election - racial prejudice.

The film wisely explores some of the same questions white Americans faced nearly 50 years ago about football, the Heisman Trophy, and tolerance that we are dealing with today in politics.

Is America ready for someone other than a white man to cross the color line and become a hero? A Heisman Trophy winner? A President? Ernie Davis' life history is germane to the history being made by Barack Obama today.

Some stories must be told. Catch The Express!

Viewing this inspirational tale though a prism of our current, "take off the gloves" angry mentality that some people are expressing right now at this very second about Barack Obama are some of the same exact feelings expressed in reaction to Ernie Davis being the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. Those old racist feelings of days gone by seem to mirror the irrational resistance to Barack Obama that we're witnessing today.

This picture was worth every penny of my hard earned (but depleting in value) cash. As a son, brother, citizen, uncle, and most importantly as a teacher I was pleased that I'd plopped my overworked underpaid butt down at my local megaplex. It was worth it for the history lesson alone. As an avid amateur sports historian who's read a sports page everyday since I could read, I was shocked that I had never heard of Ernie Davis until now. For the record, I grew up despising the Browns.

Some stories are not told because they are the too truthful. Catch The Express! It is a must see.

Growing up in a typical rust belt city like Toledo, Ohio, we were taught that everyone in America was and is equal. But I never had a Black classmate in grade school. I was never taught about the great Cleveland Browns running back known as The Elmira Express and how he was drafted by the NFL but never made it onto a professional field because tragedy struck the star before he ever got his chance to shine.

I didn't know that the myth of equality taught in school was just that... a myth.

Ernie Davis, among countless other African Americans from generations past, have already shattered and crossed color lines time and time again but Barack Obama and his supporters find themselves up against some of the same types of fear, hatred, and bigotry once again.

The Express once again proved to me that history never dies.

Right now, in this very pregnant moment in American history, we must all embrace our differences in order to change, grow, and learn as a country. We must overcome our past and seize this moment which has been thrust upon us and not let anyone throw it away or steal our history. If you have a friend or family member who is still afraid of facing change and is reluctant to move forward and cross the color line then take them to see The Express. It will help them look back and understand that we've already been here so many times before.

We've been duped. By the news media, by politicians, and by false promises of movie makers. We've all trusted those slick studio trailers designed by Ivy League marketeers who can manipulate our emotions. We've believed boatloads of charming celebrity pitches on Letterman between witty jokes and repartee only to walk out halfway through another disappointing movie scratching our heads asking why we went to see that piece of junk. But this story - steeped in history - has risen up and piqued my jaded interest and found my shrinking but surprisingly vulnerable sweet spot. I think it is my soul. Something from the past triggered that little voice inside my brain and kept telling me to go see this incredible true story about football hero Ernie Davis.

There it is again. Catch the Express! Did you hear it? Don't be left behind standing at the station.

Besides, my team has a bye week.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Review/Summary

8/10
Author: from United States
7 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Express is a true story that narrates the life of Ernie Davis, the first African American recipient of the Heisman Trophy. Starting in the 1950's we find that Ernie isn't accepted by many people because of the color of his skin, especially as a child. He is harassed and bullied by many of the other kids and never had the same opportunities as others and it wasn't until he found football that he realized that this is where he can outshine everyone. As Ernie grows up and his skills improve, he gets recruited to play for Syracuse University by their top player, Jim Brown, football legend and Ernie's icon. Ernie accepts Syracuse's offer to play for them and makes the varsity squad as a freshmen but is ineligible to play because of his class rank. As a sophomore Ernie is the standout player of the team. He leads Syracuse to be the number one team in the nation. Playing against many teams who aren't culturally diversified, Davis faces many hardships that hold him back from being able to perform to the best of his ability. When the team goes down south to play, Davis is harassed and even pulled off the field because it is dangerous for him to play because of the color of his skin. When the team makes it to the Cotton Bowl, to play their rival Texas, Davis along with two other African American teammates are forced to sleep in the basement of the hotel so they don't scare the other people who are staying there. Regardless of the difficulties that Ernie faced on the road he never let it affect his game. Davis went on to win MVP of the Cotton Bowl, after defeating Texas, clinching the number one spot in the nation. It was then that Davis was nominated for the Heisman Trophy Award, and later went on to win it. He was then recruited to play for the Cleveland Browns alongside his idol Jim Brown. Throughout college Davis suffered frequent nose bleeds and headaches but figured that he was getting sick because of football. It wasn't until he was practicing to play for the national team that he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital that he found out that he had leukemia. Davis's world had always revolved around football but now he was never allowed to play again. Suffering from this illness, Davis had to quit his lifelong dream of playing for the Browns. But in order to honor him, the Browns retired his jersey number 45 in honor of his hard work, sacrifice, and achievements. Just a year later, Ernie Davis lost his fight to Leukemia. He died with honor and glory and made history as being the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy along with various other achievements. In this inspirational movie you see that he sacrificed a lot for the love of the game and he made it into football history to be remembered by fans forever. The movie The Express did a very good job at illustrating Davis's life and glory that he achieved through football and is a movie I highly recommend.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

The Inspirational Movie of Ernie Davis

10/10
Author: smashlee318 from United States
7 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

** This comment may contain spoilers** The Express is a very inspirational story about a man, Ernie Davis, who strives to be the best football player he can and ultimately become the first black Heisman trophy winner. One of the main themes in the film is racism. We see blacks struggle to become an acceptable part of society. Ernie Davis has a dream to become the next Chris Brown, one of the best running backs for the Cleveland Browns. Once he was recruited to the Syracuse Orangemen, his journey for the Heisman trophy begins. I find this movie to be a very motivational film that sends a message out about racism. It shows that if you continue to follow your dreams no matter how many hardships and obstacles you come across, you can achieve anything. Ernie Davis tried to prove a point during the movie and play for the African Americans all over who were watching. The movie has an amazing, true story plot that makes the film very appealing to the viewers. Ernie Davis will always be remembered as the first African American to win the Heisman trophy and make a big difference in college football.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Great narration and cinematography

7/10
Author: simpson1309 from Oklahoma, United States
7 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw this movie for the first time in the theaters with some football teammates and our coach. He took the seniors to see a film of determination and inner strength of the great collegiate running back for Syracuse running back Ernie Davis. However there was much more to this film than just Ernie running all over other teams. This movie gives you an in depth look at how African American players had more than just the struggles of every day practice to deal with. They faced many obstacles. What is remarkable about Ernie is his poise. He rarely looses his head on the field and makes the most of his opportunity

The narration of this movie was great starting off with Ernie as a small child and showing the racial struggles at that age. Then progressing through is high school years until he began his time as Syracuse. That is where most of the movie takes place. We meet his good friend JB and his coach Ben Schwartszwalder (Dennis Quaid). I love the way this movie was set up and told.

The cinematography was really good also. The shots during some the National Championship game are really good along with the shots in the locker room at half time.

This is an all around great movie and you will come out of there with more than just motivation. it is a very good information movie if you do not know about Ernie Davis. I strongly recommend this movie. Its a shame Ernie died. Although he made a great impact on game of college football. We will never know what we missed out on if he had played in the NFL.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A Heartfelt Story, but Only a Decent Movie

6/10
Author: milo-586-754619 from United States
7 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Express is a movie able to make the viewer feel both inspired and saddened by Ernie Davis' story. However, there are many minor cinematic errors that inhibit The Express from becoming a truly great movie. Ernie Davis' story is really quite spectacular, being one of the greatest college football players of all time, overcoming racism, being the first black man to win The Heisman Trophy, and dying at a far too young age. The Express depicts these events and issues with emotion and sincerity. With some elite acting, a well-developed story, and lovable characters The Express is able to cover up some of the abundant cinematic mistakes that plague the film.

When viewing The Express one thing is absolutely undeniable, Dennis Quaid's performance as Coach Schwartzwalder is absolutely spectacular, and he really carries the movie as a result. While most of the actors in the movie are able to deliver their lines with emotion and sincerity, Dennis Quaid demonstrates his ability to truly become the character he is supposed to be, using actions and facial expressions. Through his near perfect performance he is able to cover up many of the amateur acting mistakes Rob Brown makes. Brown looks like Ernie Davis physically, but when he delivers his lines it lacks a certain emotion that is really needed, especially dealing with issues as vast as racism in sports in the late 1950s.

The storyline of Ernie Davis' life is incredible within itself. The way The Express tells the story keeps the viewer intrigued in what is going to happen, even when they know how the movie must end. Gary Fleder (the director) is able create a vital emotional attachment to most of his characters. Due to the back-stories of the characters, such as Ernie's childhood experience of running away from a group of white boys who want to beat him up for being African American, the viewer will be drawn into loving the entire Syracuse football team, thus caring about what happens to each of the characters as the story progresses.

Although there are all these triumphs in the way The Express is told that makes it a fun story to watch, as a movie it is not anything particularly incredible. The most substantial issue with this flick is the fact that is actually too flashy. Throughout many scenes there is so much going on technically (with oddly chosen effects or an over-abundance of background music) that it inhibits the storyline from progressing in a sensible pace. The scenes in which football games were actually depicted were prime examples of this, and while it could be due to an attempt by Gary Fleder to make the viewer see how much better Ernie was than the other players in an artistic way, personally, I saw it distracting when trying to understand Ernie's talent on the field. The same was true with the background noise at some point. Again, on the football field powerful noise is needed, but off the field, in the locker room or at school the ambient noise was rather distracting and hurt the dialogue greatly.

The Express is an inspirational movie that makes the viewer cheer and cry, but as a film it lacks in multiple technical areas.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

I loved it...

9/10
Author: lmoser13 from United States
3 December 2009

The Express is a touching, inspiring, and captivating film that should be seen by everyone. Whether you're black or white, a sports fan or not, The Express is undoubtedly enjoyable by all audiences. Rob Brown provides a powerful performance as the football star Ernie Davis. All of Brown's acting is believable. Not once did I feel like I was watching just another cheesy sports movie. The racial issues give The Express its certain depth and meaningfulness. Ernie Davis is able to rise above all these racial barriers and discrimination and become an unexpected superhero. Ernie Davis is proof that nothing is impossible. A person's skin color is no reason to feel hindered and certainly does not make one less worthy than another.

My favorite scene has to be the Syracuse v.s. Texas game. Right away, I was floored by just how terrible racism was at the time. The fans were booing, hissing, and even throwing garbage at the black players on the field. This sort of discouragement by the fans would surely intimidate most football players, but not Ernie Davis. He is just as determined to prove his strength and skill as ever before. There is just one problem; Coach Ben is reluctant to allow Ernie to play in this game due to a hamstring injury. Ernie gets fired up and exclaims that he will most definitely be playing in this game. During the game, Ernie gets pelted and tackled constantly by the opposing white players. Despite his injury and lack of support from the crowd, Ernie leads the team to a National Championship. The intensity of this scene kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I was truly touched to see the determination in Ernie's face as he was pummeling the other players and getting steps closer to breaking through those racial barriers.

All in all, The Express proves to be a film worthy of recognition. If you haven't seen it, you are truly missing out. The emotions portrayed by the actors are heartfelt and remarkably touching. This film does an excellent job depicting racism at the time and the struggles that African Americans were faced with. After having seen The Express, I feel much more educated and sympathetic towards anyone who is faced with racial prejudice of any kind.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

"21 straight lines, 5 yards apart, that's a football field...but there are other lines

Author: NCarolinaGirl from Greensboro, NC
3 March 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

...lines that aren't part of any game." These are the opening lines of the film. It's speaking of the lines of segregation that were so prominent when football great, Ernie Davis, was growing up and what he had to deal with during his short, but memorable, football career.

This is an inspiring story about a young black boy with great athletic ability that overcame many obstacles to rise to fame as the first black Heisman Trophy winner.

I think Rob Brown did an amazing job playing Ernie. He brings a real warmth and class to his portrayal. I also liked Omar Benson Miller as Jack Buckley ( I read he was based on a player named John Brown). Miller nails the part of affable and supportive friend with occasional comic relief. Its amazing that he is 10 years older than Rob Brown - his baby face makes him look younger than his 29 years. Dennis Quaid bears some resemblance to the coach he played - although they should have grayed his hair up some.

My biggest complaint is the amount of language in this film, even though it only had a PG rating. There were a ton of GD's that weren't at all necessary to the telling of the story. Okay, some will say that is the way coaches and players talk at the college level. Fine - then if you want the realism, then at least be realistic with the rating and give it a PG-13 or R. We watched this with my 12 year old son based on the PG rating.

Overall, I enjoyed the film but feel the director and writers could have done something to make it more riveting and emotional. Especially the ending with the sad fate of Davis - it just wasn't presented with much heart. It almost felt like a side note to the story. The movie, while good, doesn't rise to the level of REMEMBER THE TITANS or many other sports films with racial conflict.

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