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Sensitive study of a headstrong high school football star who dreams of getting out of his small Western Pennsylvania steel town with a football scholarship. His equally ambitious coach aims at a college position, resulting in a clash which could crush the player's dreams.Written by
Jerry Milani <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Three schools were used to portray Walnut Heights. Johnstown's Votech, as seen when the Ampipe bus arrives for the big game. The locker room scenes were shot at Westmont High School, approximately twenty miles from the Vo-tech. The scene in which the team is getting on the bus to go home after the game, where Stefan is not allowed on the bus, was filmed in the parking lot of Westmont Junior High. See more »
Stefan takes his plaid shirt off twice in the locker room before practice. See more »
Ampipe (Johnstown, PA), a depressed and gritty steel town located just outside of Pittsburgh is in obvious decline. It had been founded long before by Ampipe Pipe and Steel when steel was big. In the old days young men left high school, acquired a job at the mill, married, fathered children, and bought a house while they were still young. Most of the local men still work at Ampipe, but layoffs are increasing. Enter Stef Djordjevic (Tom Cruise), a cornerback for his Ampipe High School football team (The Bulldogs), who wants a college scholarship to an engineering college, his ticket out of town. He displays his Penn State pennant on his bedroom wall. Stef resides with his father (Charles Cioffi) and older brother, Rick (Gary Graham), both of whom work in the mill.
Stef doesn't always act in a nice way but is generally likable. His problem is his attitude, which drives his Coach, Nickerson (Craig T. Nelson), mad as a hatter. Stef does not always listen to his coach's teachings. Stef maintains a B average at Ampipe High, not good enough for a college scholarship. So he needs football as his meal ticket. Stef happens to be a very good defensive player, although he is not the star of his team. Meanwhile Coach Nickerson too is looking for a way out of Ampipe, as he has a chance to become defensive backfield coach at Cal Poly. The coach is tough and no-nonsense, and really works his players hard during the practices. He is less than perfect, and when players make mistakes, he considers them as quitters on the team.
Even though the movie revolves around high school football, it is more about inter-personal relationships than about the gridiron. In fact, the big game against the Knights of Walnut Heights, a richer school undefeated and ranked number three in Pennsylvania, occurs only half-way through the movie, not at the denouement. And yet an interesting well-filmed piece does involve the road game: the long bus journey to Walnut Heights with the players thinking their individual thoughts, the tensions in the locker room, the pre-game prep talk, the long spiral football spinning through the air, the hard hits and grunts in the rain, and the eventual heartbreaking loss.
Nevertheless, the important matter is the story of life, as when the two teen-aged protagonists (Stef and Lisa, Lea Thompson) finally get around to expressing their true feelings. Secondary characters have their stories to tell. There are the men, laid off from work, who drown their sorrows in the local gin mill. One young man in financial difficulty becomes desperate enough to commit a robbery. A life-changing event involves a cheerleader who becomes pregnant. Then there are the antics of a bar room bully. Stef himself becomes tense as his expected football scholarships fail to materialize.
In summary the plot is decent, and even though the movie is not a great one, is still worth watching.
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