The extremely talented Santiago Muñez is spotted by a Newcastle United scout and given a chance at professional football.The extremely talented Santiago Muñez is spotted by a Newcastle United scout and given a chance at professional football.The extremely talented Santiago Muñez is spotted by a Newcastle United scout and given a chance at professional football.
While the settings and the game results are real, we follow the fictional story of an illegal Mexican immigrant to Los Angeles, Santiago Munez, street footballer extrodinaire. He gets his lucky break when an ex-Newcastle United player turned scout, Glen Foy, chances upon his games, and invites him over to England for trials.
For a guy who's struggling to make ends meet, this presents the perfect opportunity to take a stab at his dream. But tension builds as his father disapproves and is skeptical at both the chance as well as his son's gift to make it big. So he leaves his real dad and family behind, to follow in the footsteps of Foy, his surrogate father in England.
The highlight of the movie is not the real football games that the actors get seamlessly transplanted onto, but rather the many trials and tribulations that Munez goes through to earn his rightful place in the squad. His disastrous first appearance almost made him take the first plane home, and I'd bet many in the audience thought it would be a breeze actually for him to make it to first team. Thankfully, the focus was on his sheer determination to overcome the lack of niceties towards newcomer rookies like himself, and the difficulties and temptations which fill his 30 days trial that Foy literally begged for.
What you read in the papers of the decadent lifestyle of footballers are all in here - the booze, the parties, the clubbing, the women, even video games (taking a stab at David James maybe?). Munez gets introduced to these by fellow teammate and cocky new German acquisition Gavin Harris, whose partying lifestyle takes a toll on his game, and becomes the Toon Army's boo-boy. It's fantastic how these two characters contrast each other, and help each other along the way.
For non-fans of the beautiful game, fear not, you're not gonna be alienated in this movie, as it doesn't sink into technicalities like the dreaded offside rule. You'll enjoy the movie simply because of the strong human drama weaved into the story, as well as the familiarity of easily identifiable themes of hard work, right ethics, living your dreams and fulfilling your aspirations.
Newcastle fans however, will rejoice, as the hallowed grounds of St James Park gets put on the silver screen. For fans without the opportunity of visiting their beloved club, they can gawk at the dressing room, the gym, the dugout, the pitch up close, the city neighbourhood, and "mingle" with fellow fanatical Geordies. Club captain Alan Shearer makes appearances too, as do the many other first team players. But the screen version of the club manager looks uncannily modelled after Arsenal's Arsene Wenger. Fans of Fulham, Chelsea and Liverpool can also see their heroes on screen as well.
Santiago Munez is played by a relative newcomer, Mexican actor Kuno Becker, who was put on real soccer training to improve his skills and make him look credible and natural with the ball at his feet. At certain angles with his short crop, he looks like Michael Owen, who now is playing for Newcastle (he wasn't when this movie was filmed).
I so dig the soundtrack, especially the guitar piece which opened the movie, and track from the trailer which also made its way into the movie - Kasabian's Club Foot, and various pieces by Brit-band Oasis. A pity it's only out in the stores on October 16 (based on Amazon), but I'll be there to pick it up when it hit the shelves.
The ending, even though it wrapped up all the pieces nicely, is a bit abrupt, but I guess it would lead directly into the planned sequels of a trilogy, which involve Real Madrid and the World Cup. This is one movie which can spark someone's interest in soccer, and I'd recommend it to both fans and non-fans alike. Don't let this movie dribble past you!
- DICK STEEL
- Oct 5, 2005