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Inspiring Sports Movie
LDQ40912 October 2008
The Express was one of the best sports movies I have seen. It tells the story of Ernie Davis, who was the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy and his relationship with his coach, Ben Schwarzwalder.

It is set in the late 50's where there was still a great deal of prejudice against African Americans, even in the northern states where segregation was not overt. Ernie's optimism and willingness to be the best football player he can be, not just the best African American football player was portrayed perfectly by Rob Brown. He was inspiring and you couldn't help rooting for him to succeed.

Ben was a crusty, set in his ways coach, who couldn't see beyond winning the game. Ernie helped him see that a football team is made up of individuals who have to pull together to achieve their goals. Dennis Quaid is an excellent actor, who can say so much with just a smile or a raised eyebrow. He is so natural, it is as if he isn't acting at all. Dennis & Rob have a very good chemistry, and they made every scene believable.

The Express was similar to the Rookie, another great film that Dennis Quaid starred in. Both films had just the right amount of drama, set off with little bits of comedy to relieve the tension.

At the showing I attended, the audience was very moved by the film because when it was over, there was much applause, something you don't hear much in movies these days.

You don't have to be a football fan to love this movie. I highly recommend it.
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Re: Excellent Movie Of A True Legend
jbuttlar12 October 2008
This was a very well acted movie. Dennis Quaid did a great job of playing the coach and Rob Brown was the perfect choice for Ernie Davis. The ratings this movie has received so far are not in line with the quality of this film. This movie in no way presented a political point of view. The only thing political was what happened in real life. This was the recognition given to Ernie by the president of the time. (which was JFK) Other than this movie was more inspirational. It showed the character of Ernie Davis and the faith he had in his own abilities, his coach, family and his God. Ernie Davis has reshaped College sports. Due to his ability to cope with hatred and racism in a positive way. The game of college sports has vastly become more professional. The talent of teams today is far greater than the past. Ernie opened the door foe all races in sports; thus increasing the abilities of the teams. I highly recommend this film.
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Superb film that everyone should see...a great history lesson!
pjmbdm27 October 2008
My husband and I saw EXPRESS yesterday and truly enjoyed this movie. We love movies based on true stories and also enjoy sports so this was a winning combination! We found this movie to be truly captivating and beautifully told. The acting was superb.....everyone did a fantastic job of making it all very real. We didn't know anything about Ernie Davis and feel so privileged to know his story. Of course we knew Jim Brown, but Ernie never even had a chance to show his real talents to the world via the Cleveland Browns. What a gifted young man he was and all the difficulties he had to face made him even more special. As far as the people who don't appreciate WV being shown in that light, my husband was in the Army in 1960-1963, and whether it was WV, NC, SC, or any other state in that vicinity that is exactly how it was and he experienced that type of hate first hand. Thank you for bring us such a meaningful film. We hope it is a huge success.
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This ain't Brian's Song but ...
Darth-Furious27 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Based on the non-fiction book Ernie Davis: The Elmira Express, by Robert C. Gallagher, The Express: The Ernie Davis story seems to lose itself in it's own title. The name change signifies a young culture and generation completely unaware of the legend of Ernie Davis. Wait a second... there's a good title.

Off the bat, I have to credit Rob Brown. At 16 years old this kid was squaring off impressive verbiage with Sean Connery and held his own. Now, his confidence shines even more. As Davis, Brown emotes without saying a word and strides through a script that tries but sheds little light into Davis's mind.

Coach - er, Dennis Quaid disappears into the father role, replacing Davis's grandfather Pops (Charles Dutton) and polarizing every scene.

God, I wish they had more for Clancy Brown to do. I mean, come on - it's Clancy Freakin Brown.

So anyway, with most sports films, we get the basic hero plot wrapped around big game action scenes and the occasional fistfight. By the third act, the protagonists/ pioneers have broken through barriers, stumbled through plot twists and plot holes like a paint by numbers series and after winning the big game, celebrate - with hands high, flashing Colgate smiles and cheer into the epilogue.

The Express follows the same formula until one remembers the nose bleeds. Wait a sec, it happens more than once? Yeah. That a loose plot? Not really. That was the relationship between Davis and Jim Brown or Davis and his girlfriend. What's her name? Sarah. There's just not enough depth invested into these relationships. So anyway, the nose bleeds are symptoms of acute monocytic leukemia. The hints are there like after-school special bookends and we, like Davis, have no clue what's happening. We want to dismiss it and move on - just like he does. That's the inspiration in this film. And it feels good.

Overall, this is a film for the masses. It's strength is the push of a young man who was unaware of his own limitations in any event. Be it secure confidence or misguided pride, without that awareness - Davis could proceed and achieve to no end. The filmmakers stretch what they have to cover what they don't. All the facts are here. The history is too. But I wanted more. I wanted to see his struggle with the Big L - the unseen antagonist we waited for. Arrogant teammates, West Virginia racists, or even the slew of em in Texas (before the seemingly rushed ending) are nothing comparable. We move past it, onto the big night in Cleveland. But, that might be the writer's intention.

I didn't have any sense about this film other than football. I had heard of Ernie Davis however I couldn't recall any significant details of his life to save my own. The details of Jim Brown and the Heisman Trophy are lost on non football fans. Even the fact that Davis led Syracuse to it's first national championship becomes a mute point. This film is about a man... not a football star.

Brown and Quaid shoulder this film. The performances are so strong and touching... how Davis infects his weary eyed coach with his wisdom is a joy. The whole student teaching the master cliché is good. Oh yeah, there was this whole white/ black racial politic thing and everything (and anything) racist hits the front burners. Still, the meat of what drove Davis is key here. What caused this man to tick? What kept him focused and determined? When did he forget he was black?

I have to big up Mark Isham's tender, yet powerful score. There were cues in this film that bring tears to one's eyes. Other good notes are any scenes with the wonderful, fresh faced Nicole Behaire as Davis's wife Sarah and Darrin Henson as a firm, but less formidable looking Jim Brown and again... Clancy Brown.

Ernie Davis's story is remarkable to discover. The Express does it's best to give us the stuff of this young man's legend. Even through the gloss and shine of Hollywood's spin... it just feels good.
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It has you cheering and clapping as you watch it
robertallenandersonjr4 October 2008
The Express was a wonderful sports movie with lots of drama. It had a ton of emotion and great feelings in it. Me watching the movie I felt like a fan. This movie will make you love sports even if you don't. It was inspirational in so many ways. The whole movie keeps you entertained and on the edge of your seat at the end. Each one of the football games were fun and exciting to watch. When their wasn't football in the movie the director found ways to keep the movie good and interesting. This movie had emotion. love, heart, tears, and inspiring moments. Their are many different scenes in this movie that are sad to watch and upsetting for the viewers. The thing that makes it so upsetting for us to watch is the thing they do to blacks in this movie. I think that everyone should see this movie just to see how life was. The life the blacks lived in this movie wasn't good. I think this movie will teach people to respect everyone no matter who it is. This movie was one of the best movies of the year. It was the best sports movie of the year and ever. It will honestly have you on your feet. It was such a great movie and was so inspiring and should be seen by everyone. It was great for kids, teens, adults, and even grandparents. It was so exciting and fun to watch all around. Their weren't any flaws pretty much. The movie has so many different messages that were great. The thing that is mostly the best part of the movie is that Ernie is the most unselfish person on and off the field in this movie. He shows everyone how to be a better person. The coach played by Dennis Quaid did a great job and was a good person and coach as well. The movie was based on a true story also. Overall this is one feel good movie. It is the must see sports movie. Go see it and have a fun time cheering and clapping.
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" Only real Giants can tell you how good it feels to be so tall "
thinker169130 August 2009
When studios turn back the clock in movies, they expose the excessive baggage which accompanied our bigoted and ignorant past. Audiences living in the present decade can observe all of the social ills of those bygone eras. Social problems in America have all but been buried, yet irritatingly they surface when our society is reminded not every American has learned the lessons of the past. Thus it is with this superior movie called " The Express." The great Ernie Davis is played by Rob Brown as an adult and Justin Martin in his youth. Both actors do a incredible job. Dennis Quaid plays Ben Schwartzwalder, the inspirational coach who does an exceptional job. The icon Jim Brown is played by Darren Henson and Charles Dutton is William Davis Sr. Although the film traces the life of Ernie Davis, it only highlights the major events, tragedies and triumphs of the all star player at Saracues University. The movie is inspirational on many levels and touches the viewer with the most dramatic obstacles such as racism and segregation. Indeed a personal meeting with the late great John F. Kennedy is sure to evoke positive memories. Throughout the entire movie one is offered a blunt eye-view of our most brutal social affliction and one can only hope our great nation will one day make it obsolete. Easilly recommended to all audiences. ****
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Ernie Davis's Story
Chrysanthepop2 June 2009
'The Express', though based on Ernie Davis's life, is given a very Hollywood treatment. The story is uplifting and even inspiring to some, especially how Davis chooses to fight racism, not with violence, but with American football. Yet, the film itself is sugarcoated and has the deja-vu feel. For example, it is easy to predict which team will win (as is the case with most sports film). However, the last 20 minutes were handled well. Those scenes could have easily been melodramatic but the director chooses to play it down here. The background score is very intrusive at times. I thought the issue of racism was well tackled. This isn't 'just another movie about racism' because the conflicts are well depicted and dealt with (like one would think it would be in the 50s). Dennis Quaid definitely moves a step forward from his usual average acting. It's impressive to see him get under the skin of the character rather than play the usual formula. Rob Brown does a fine job and holds his own. Overall, 'The Express' tells an important story about a man who made a difference in American history even though his name is not known to everyone.
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The Ernie Davis Story
bkoganbing19 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Ernie Davis whom I remember as a kid as the most promising college football player of his time made quite the impact on the world of sports back in the day. But is impact during the Civil Rights era in which he played is equally compelling a story. Both are united here in a wonderful sports film, The Express with young Rob Brown playing Ernie Davis.

Brown plays Davis well as the idealistic young kid who takes as his ideal Jackie Robinson and the significance he had breaking the color line in professional baseball. Black people were already playing professional football at this time also, but the sport was not what it is today or in fact would shortly become starting in the middle Fifties when Davis was in college ball at the University of Syracuse.

A guy who had a lot to do with that was Ernie Davis's predecessor at the University of Syracuse Jim Brown as played by Darrin DeWitt Henson. Brown's place among professional football immortals is quite assured and he came to the Cleveland Browns with the reputation from college he more than lived up to.

In fact it's Brown that Coach Ben Schwartzwalder uses to recruit Davis to the Orangemen of Syracuse. Dennis Quaid plays the coach and he gives one of his best performances in his career. In fact it's right in line with another football film Any Given Sunday where he plays an aging quarterback with heart and guts, but losing a step or two in the field.

The film is about Quaid almost as much as about Rob Brown. The coach learns that he's living in extraordinary times for America, most extraordinary for black America. His players are not separate and apart from the social changes going on, they and the game cannot be kept in a vacuum. Proof of that comes when the Orangemen of Syracuse go south to play West Virginia and later the University of Texas in the Cotton Bowl which was more of a war than an athletic contest.

Ernie Davis beat out Jim Brown in two special categories. He was the first black man to win the Heisman Trophy for Best College Football player and probably earned it by dint of the fact that he unlike Brown led Syracuse to a national championship. It was a fact the Heisman Committee could not ignore.

The football sequences as in Any Given Sunday are done incredibly well, choreographed would not be a bad word to describe them. Davis did in fact say he would let his field exploits do his talking and they spoke loud and clear.

I hope some Oscar nominations are in the future for both Quaid and Brown. The Express will go down in history as one of the best sports films ever done and it goes along way towards keeping the story of Ernie Davis alive for generations to come.
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acs_joel16 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I grew up following Syracuse sports. I remember Ben Schwartzwalder being interviewed on Sunday mornings on channel 3 in Syracuse.

The film was a disappointment for me.

Have the director or cinematographer actually ever played football? The football scenes were very contrived and not realistic. As football movies go, The Express looks like girls' field hockey.

The writing was corny. This story needed more of an edge, dealing with racial tensions and sports glory. It comes off as a made-for-TV movie of the week.

Dennis Quaid, although one of my favorite actors, is miscast. Ben was a hard-nosed guy, Dennis is just can't pull off the scowl.

As much as I thought I would like this film, that's how much I dislike it. By the way, how did the film end? I left early.
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The Express Movie Review from The Massie Twins
GoneWithTheTwins9 October 2008
There's no doubt that Ernie Davis led an inspirational and tragically moving life, yet the formulaic presentation and stereotypical structure to the motivational sports drama doesn't provide an appropriately unique platform to tell his story. Perhaps his life is the epitome of the genre, but we've seen this same tale numerous times only with different sports and slightly different obstacles. The Express does an exemplary job of recreating an era and a football legend with plenty of heart and exciting action, but an overlong running time and an over-attentiveness to specific dates and historical accuracy diminishes the entertainment and amps up the documentary vibe.

Ever since he was a young boy growing up in Pennsylvania, Ernie Davis was forced to overcome harsh adversity, and perhaps the greatest came when he was recruited to play college football for Syracuse. The Express chronicles the tragically short, yet monumentally accomplished life of the first African-American to ever win the Heisman Trophy.

All the actors involved portrayed their respective real-life characters with enthusiasm and charisma aplenty, however far too many seemed included just to fill a stereotypical role in such films. Since it's based on a true story, perhaps all of these people really existed. Dennis Quaid gives a notable hard-edged, tough-coach-with-a-heart-of-gold performance who admirably avoids too many lengthy inspirational speeches, yet still manages to breach the trying-too-hard to act tough line at a few points throughout the film.

Once again Hollywood has churned out an inspirational sports drama with that winning blend of feel-good momentum and underdog accomplishments. Although the sport keeps changing, the formula stays the same, and so the significance of this based-on-a-true-story adaptation feels overdone and imitative. Realistic, well-acted, but ultimately more of the same tried-and-true storytelling, The Express is a perfect movie-going experience for those who know exactly what the film is all about before watching it.

  • The Massie Twins
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Bad Info Bad Movie
Neil Reed1 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This film was not about Ernie Davis,this film was about Jim Brown. Using Mr. Brown as a source on this film was a mistake. The film save for a few notable scenes is mostly Hollywood fabrication. I pity Dennis Quaid ever going back home to Texas after his participation in this film! True facts of racism are one thing but to fabricate them for Hollywood are even worse. Read the true stories of Ernie Davis and you will see a much different person than the one depicted in this film. Ernie Davis described by teammates and fellow students paint a much different one than the one Jim Brown made up!Perhaps the directors should have just made a film about Jim Brown and his experiences with racism which he truly endured. There was none of the trash throwing, racism laced hate speech, and other racist events portrayed at West Virgina. There was a brawl at the Cotton Bowl in 1960 and Syracuse was asked to leave the after game awards ceremony but they went to the Dallas Athletic Club and had a great time according to players. Why does Hollywood always have to embellish the truth? If this movie had been about the true Ernie Davis it could have been a very nice piece of college football history! All of the living teammates agree this film was not the history or the Ernie Davis they remember! I believe them and the facts not this movie!
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The Express, despite some exaggerations, was a mostly inspiring bio-film of Ernie Davis
tavm23 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Before I write the review proper of The Express, I have something to nitpick: I know when films are made "based on a true story" some events are going to be exaggerated. Nonetheless, I expect most of what happens in those movies to reflect a certain truth and be as accurate as possible. So when I read here on IMDb that the taunts of the Syracuse vs. West Virginia game from WV stadium members NEVER HAPPENED and that the coach that Dennis Quaid played had actually worked near the surrounding areas, that marred some of the enjoyment I got out of this movie based on Ernie Davis, whom I actually read about in elementary school in a literature textbook during the '70s. I wasn't bothered by some other inaccuracies I read about, however, since many of them were more minor and therefore, doesn't ruin the picture for me. The performances of Rob Brown as Davis and Quaid as head coach Ben Schwartzwalder had me riveted for most of the movie and I also enjoyed Charles Dutton as Davis' grandfather and Nicole Beharie as Davis' girlfriend, Sarah Ward. The tragic fate of Davis in the last 15 minutes also was handled tastefully and reading about President Kennedy's eulogy before the end credits was especially inspiring. So despite my misgivings about the whole West Virginia scene, I'm recommending The Express for anyone curious about this nearly forgotten time in college football history. P.S. I was pleasantly surprised to read in the end credits that part of this movie was shot in my birthtown of Chicago, Ill.
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jacobson986 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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Catch the Express!
russellgrace21 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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The Express An Excellent Movie Based On A True Story
tburke8511 June 2009
The Express is an excellent movie based on a true story about the life of college football hero Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. For those of you who haven't seen it I won't say anything else about the movie. Because The Express is one those movies you don't want to know too much about before seeing it. I'm glad I didn't know too much about it because I was very impressed with this one because the Express was definitely much better than expected. The film does a great job of making you care about Ernie and most of the other characters who may not be in it much but they make the best of their limited screen time. The whole cast turn in great performances especially Rob Brown as Ernie Davis and Dennis Quaid as his tough but sympathetic college football coach. The rest of the supporting cast are admirable in their roles too. Mostly everything in this movie worked from the intense realistic football sequences to the drama of Ernie's inspirational life. The pacing was a little slow at times but the rest of the film made up for it's one flaw. Overall The Express was so much better than expected and is a movie based on a true story that deserves to be told which is brought to life because of the exceptional performances by the cast. Well done.
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An uplifting and inspiring tale.
Jamie Ward9 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 (
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TamPalm12 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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A punt here, a punt there
ctomvelu129 November 2009
Loosely based on the life of the first black football player to win the Heisman Trophy, this follows a chap named Ernie Davis -- a name most viewers are unlikely to be familiar with -- throughout his school years. When he reaches Syracuse College, he finds he is one of two black players on his team. His coach is played by Dennis Quaid. The period was just far enough back in time that there were very few black football players, and in some states, blacks could not stay in the same hotels or attend social functions with whites. All of this is dealt with in a forthright manner, although some facts have been slightly altered to punch home the drama of the era. Quaid's coach is a gruff old man with a heart of gold, a role Quaid likely will be playing more and more often as he ages. You may not recognize many of the actors in this, but they are uniformly excellent. Worth a watch, even if you dislike football.
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Just telling a Good Story
boahook4 October 2008
I love how people are always looking for some underlying reason to tell the story other than expressing history and an American hero. This movie has been in the works far longer than the Obama campaign and it is insulting to think it is created to sway people to vote for a black president based on white guilt.

Those of you who are interested in the Ernie Davis Story should watch it and enjoy it if you like it and if you're a fan but those of you who feel you and the rest of white American are too stupid to make you're own political decisions without being manipulated with guilt into choosing a candidate should of course not watch ANY media until the election is over.
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Dennis Quaid Made the Film For Me
Manny the Movie Guy8 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"The Express" tells the gripping true-to-life tale of Ernie Davis. He's the first African-American who won the Heisman Trophy, college football's highest individual honor. At a glance, you may think "The Express" is just another football film, but what sets this movie apart is its resonant theme of courage and hope amidst racism.

Racism is the key to Davis' discovery of his athletic abilities as a child. Faced with danger from the neighborhood bullies, all white, Davis escapes his tormentors by running as fast as he can. From that point on, the boy who can barely speak because of his stuttering problems is able to express himself on the football field.

Actor Rob Brown plays the grown-up Davis with much aplomb. Brown has such an aura of openness that his performance pulls you in. The actor landed his first acting job in "Finding Forrester" because he thought he could be an extra in the movie so he could pay his cell phone bill. The rawness in his acting he showed in that film sparring with Sean Connery is evident in "The Express." Only this time, Brown is wrangling with Dennis Quaid.

Quaid stars as Ben Schwartzwalder, a long-time coach at Syracuse University. Schwartzwalder discovered another gridiron icon, Jim Brown (played in the movie by Darrin Dewitt Henson), and he is the one who will eventually mold Davis into a football hero.

"The Express" can be seen as a two-character morality play between Davis and Schwartzwalder. The football scenes are great, but much of the action happens between the clashing coach and his esteemed player.

If Davis is a symbol of the civil rights campaign during the 1960s, Schwartzwalder is the metaphor for the evolving conscience of America. In the beginning of the movie, Schwartzwalder appears to have only one goal in mind – winning. But towards the end, with Davis' help, Schwartzwalder learns the true meaning of victory.

Brown and Quaid are enough to justify the price of your movie ticket, but "The Express" is blessed with indelible supporting performances. Heading the pack is Charles S. Dutton as Davis' grandfather. His likability matches Brown's. Another notable performance comes from Omar Benson Miller as Davis' best friend, Jack Buckley. His acting transcends the comic relief nature of the character. However, the lack of strong female characters mars an otherwise perfect acting ensemble.

Based on the book by Robert Gallagher called "The Elmira Express" (the Elmira in the title comes from Davis' hometown, Elmira, NY) with a script written by Charles Leavitt, I liked that the topic of racism did not consume the film. There are some lines that are a bit overhanded, but the actors deliver them with much gusto.

One of my favorite lines from the movie is the one Schwartzwalder used to inspire his team during their historic Cotton Bowl game against the University of Texas in Dallas. Met by intense heckling brought by racism, Quaid, in a powerful dramatic moment, delivers the dialog, "do not let them take history away from you." That line reverberates strong and well to this day.

Directed by Gary Fleder ("Runaway Jury"), you don't have to like football to enjoy the movie. You will stand up and cheer during the intense football scenes, but you will clap even more for Ernie Davis' unprecedented journey. And for that, "The Express" gets 3 Touchdown kisses
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Texas. Texas. Texas.
JoeytheBrit14 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Even though I knew absolutely nothing about Ernie Davis, the tragic young hero of this biopic, as I watched this film the suspicion that I was watching one of those largely fictionalised accounts that typifies the kind of biopics Hollywood churned out in its golden age kept growing with each predictable emotional peak and plot twist. A quick scan of some of the comments on the film's message board quickly confirmed those suspicions.

Chronological impossibilities aside, this film could have easily been made in the 30s or 40s. Ernie Davis - and every other black character in this film - is filled with a kind of pious nobility that set them apart from most white characters in the film - apart from those insightful enough (such as gruff old coach Burgess Meredith, erm, Jon Voight - no, Samuel L. Jackson… Gene Hackman? Dennis Quaid!) to see the boy's football talent (but not his uniqueness as an individual) . The whites in this film are blindly racist West Virginians or gung-ho jocks or wise-cracking sports reporters. Everything is black and white, you might say.

The film's well-made, the acting is good (especially Rob Brown as Davis), and there's no doubting the sincerity of the writers or the source material. But by following conventional biopic story lines and blatantly distorting certain incidents and situations in order to make a 'better' film, the makers severely dilute its impact and bring into question every aspect, thus making it unreliable as a 'true story.' It might also perhaps have been wiser to finish the film after Syracuse's victory over Texas at the Rose Bowl, with titles to inform the viewer of Davis's winning of the Heisman Trophy and the illness that cruelly cut short his life, rather than continuing another half-an-hour after its emotional and inspirational peak.
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A triumph
merrywood10 October 2008
In fact, I'm not a football fan, nor even a sports fan at that---this extraordinary movie would have slipped by me except for several reasons: One of them, my friend of some 30 years or so, Coralee Burch wrote a manuscript on the life of the protagonist in this story, real life college football great Ernie Davis. The years that she struggled unsuccessfully to pitch her script are still quite vivid in my recollection because for her it was a heartfelt labor of love. Ernie Davis, the first dark skinned winner of the coveted Heisman Trophy was to her a real life hero and she related to me more than once how he was not just a great athlete but beloved by everyone that ever met him, such was the greatness of his spirit…all of that despite the crushing bigotry that Davis faced coming of age in the mid-20th Century America and the brutal treatment and abuse heaped upon him from childhood.

The second reason is the actor chosen to play Ernie Davis, Rob Brown. I first discovered Brown in his first film Finding Forrester (2000). He was selected to play the lead opposite Sean Connery in this small, beautiful gem of a film at age 16 and without any training as an actor yet held his own superbly against Connery. The minute that I saw the trailer for The Express and recognized Rob Brown I decided I would see the film, even before I realized it was the story about Ernie Davis.

A curious coincidence as well, Ernie's greatest hero was Jim Brown, who played at Syracuse before Ernie and who went on to the Cleveland Browns once again followed by Ernie. Some of you will know the name Jim Brown because he has been an actor in Hollywood for decades. When I was in High School in Hicksville in the track team I recall quite vividly one day watching Jim Brown run a long distance race on the track leaving everyone behind as if they were jogging at a track meet with his High School, Manhasset.

Although Jim was instrumental in inspiring Ernie, as it turned out Ernie had an even better football record than Jim in college and might have also matched or bettered Jim in the NFL where Jim is today considered a legendary player. It was not meant to be, however, Ernie Davis died at age 23 of Leukemia just after being drafted by the Cleveland Browns.

To this writing I've read more than two dozen criticals on this film and although most critics liked the film not one grasped the meaning of the story. It was not a film about sports or football but about the triumph of the human spirit.
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"Express" director takes unnecessary, untrue shot at WV!
bapaball25 October 2008
"The Express" tells the story of Ernie Davis, the first African-American winner of football's Heisman Trophy.

This could have been known as a factual, historically truthful movie IF the makers had not taken unnecessary racial shot at West Virginia University while producing the film.

The movie includes a scene in which Mountaineer fans hurl racial slurs and trash at Davis and his Syracuse University teammates during a 1959 game in Morgantown.

West Virginia was never mentioned in the original Charles Levitt script, nor did WVU play Syracuse during this historical time frame. Thus the film falsely depicts the West Virginia and WVU.

Levitt says the script he gave Universal Pictures did not mention WV or West Virginia University. He had said that the scene was supposed to depict a 1958 game at Tar Heels Stadium in North Carolina - a choice that also displayed artistic license.

"It is a sad fact of my business that when a screenwriter turns a script over to a studio, the studio and the filmmakers own it," wrote Leavitt. "They can do anything they want with it - even rewrite parts of it without consulting me and without my knowledge or consent."
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Fine Film With Message(s)
michaeltaddonioa11 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This fine film was, of course, about an athlete who was outstanding in what he did.

It also was about the athlete overcoming racial prejudice at a time when this issue explode(1960s). Racial prejudice has always been around, no doubt about it. Ernie Davis worked hard to overcome the prejudice through his conduct and performance on the field and off it. Of course, there were the disagreements with teammates and the coaches. One was the game at West Virginia where the head coach didn't want Davis to score a touchdown because of the expected reaction to it. Davis didn't like and went against the coach. Davis was enough of a man to go to the coach and straighten things out with him, in a sense. Davis had the courage to tell the head coach the he needed to be for his players, and not against them. The head coach had an attitude change. He fought to get his players to stay in the same hotel in Dallas, but failed. He succeeded when he sided with his players about not going to the official trophies presentation party after the Cotton Bowl, instead going to a barbecue place where a black band performed. The trophies were brought to the Syracuse players by Cotton bowl officials.

One of the comments about the film stated that this was an extension of a particular political campaign. Not true. It is about life and how to overcome difficulties in it. It is about accepting people as they are. The film is one to inspire. It is also one that states that things that are wrong needed to be constantly worked on to be corrected. The point can be made that it is both a history and sociological lesson. Take from and enjoy the film for what it is.
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A Real Tear-Maker
Manny652210 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This movie has messed up my whole day. It was such a good movie but it really hit the heart. When he was diagnosed with leukemia my heart sunk because I have recently lost two of my closest family members from cancer. Davis had such a talent with his feet. He ran so fast until he couldn't run anymore!For him to die so early in his life really saddened me because he had such good potential. Ernie Davis has also inspired me from his story to keep on fighting even when the fight seems to be everlasting. He didn't even get to see African-American's free. He died before he could play in the Clevland Browns. One of his biggest dreams. So when you go to see this movie, please bring your tissues. It's a real depressor and tear-breaker, but it's also an excellent movie.
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