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STUDIO: Sony Pictures
RUNNING TIME: 125 Minutes
• Available Subtitles: English, French
• Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
• Commentary by: With the Writer and Director
• Deleted Scenes
• Commentary With the Writer and Director
• Deleted Scenes Commentary With the Writer and Director
• Gridiron Gang: Football Training
• Multi-Angle Football Scene
• Phil Joanou Profile
• The Rock Takes the Field
“It’s Freedom Writers without the Freedom!”
In adherance to current NFL regulations, the linebacker was banned
from the league, audited, and chemically neutered due to excessive
contact with the quarterback.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Xzibit “No Last Name”, Kevin “Well” Dunn, Leon “Yeah I was in Maximum Overdrive, fuck you” Rippy
Based on a true story, Sean Porter (The Rock) is a former football player turned counselor at a juvenile detention facility. He realizes the current modus operandi isn’t working and the kids are being sent back out on the streets only to end up back in jail or even worse, dead. With this in mind he proposes a football team for the detention facility, as a means to build self-esteem and self-reliance to these troubled youngsters. With assistant coach Malcolm Moore (Xzibit) at his side, the expected peaks and valleys follow.
Pimp My Ride: Cadaver Edition
A sports movie like this clearly is going to adhere to formula. There’s no disguising the fact that you’re going to establish the rough-and-tumble kids, then deliver a blow to their self-esteem which is then built back up through a series of character moments and triumphs, culminating in their final victory over the evil rivals established at the beginning of the film. Here’s where a sports movie has to make its hay, though: when that running back/wide receiver/quarterback is sprinting for the end zone in the final seconds and there’s an opposing player zeroing in on him, you’ve got to believe that there’s a possibility the good guys won’t win. It’s then when you know you’ve worked the formula to perfection and have sucked your audience in. Does Gridiron Gang accomplish this? Unfortunately the answer is no for any number of reasons ranging from being too generic to being overlong and overcooked.
This is the first time The Rock has been asked to carry a film without eating scorpions or hitting people with a log, and he acquits himself nicely. His presence is a solid fit for a character that spends most of the running time dispensing wisdom and teaching children to believe in themselves. The guy is the genuine deal, a physical presence that can back it up with chops. His supposed foil in the movie as played by Xzibit has nothing to do and it shows (although you’ll see why later in the special features).
The XFL’s last-ditch effort to revive ratings with their ‘New and Improved’ coin flip was disastrous.
As for all of the kids that comprise the gang, kudos to the director and writer for giving so much different characters depth on the team (the kids are a group of first-time actors and unknowns), fleshing out what tends to be a skeleton crew of extras who high five and chest bump in the background in most sports movies. However, the negative byproduct of this decision was that the filmmakers then felt obligated to give each of these characters a triumphant moment (slow motion, cheering, the works) later on in the movie. This works sort of like movie morphine: by the third or fourth time a player has learned their allotted lesson and applied it on the football field, you’re starting to feel a little numb to these supposed emotional high points. It also doesn’t help that even with the kids each getting time to develop; you still don’t really emotionally connect with them.
The Gridiron Gang goes to Hiroshima.
There are some things to enjoy in this movie, though. The Rock, as mentioned earlier, is rock solid in the lead role is just a flat-out charismatic actor. It’s frustrating for him to be continually placed in these generic movies where all you can say for them is “Yeah, but The Rock was good in it”. Here’s hoping that Mr. Johnson eventually winds up finding some roles that are tailored towards his natural abilities and is able to escape the slums of studio pictures. Also worth noting are the majority of the football scenes. Although the final game and some of the moments within it are contrived so much as to make your head spin, the action on the whole is hard-hitting and more or less realistic. Another aspect worthy of notice is the social aspect to this movie, showing the fact that the current system of juvenile detention is doing little to curtail the cycle of violence that leads to 3/4ths of the kids being jailed again or dying after they’re released. Granted, the film isn’t hell-bent on being polemical and its solution of football doesn’t seem to me a cure-all, but just to insert a worthwhile message in a movie these days while also working towards being a piece of entertainment is laudatory in my book. Overall, Gridiron Gang simply doesn’t attain the levels of emotional attachment it thinks it does (far too many ‘Chill moments’ attempted here, for those who know what I’m referring to) and besides a winning turn by The Rock it is nothing more than a standard overcoming-adversity sports team movie with a hint of social consciousness sprinkled in. Only for die-hard sports movie followers and fans of The Rock.
Abandon hope, all ye who enter.
Abandon hope, all ye who enter.
First off, I have to note that the version sent to us was full screen which is flat-out hateful. The audio quality is rock solid and the picture is crisp and clear (although there’s way too much contrasty stuff going on in the film’s color scheme, but that’s not the fault of the DVD authors). Beyond that, there’s a handful of extras here for those of you who want deeper (we’re still wading in the kiddie end of the pool with these extras, though) insight into the film. There’s a director and writer commentary which is agreeable but definitely not in the upper echelon of informative or entertaining commentaries. There’s a host of deleted scenes (with optional (meaning you should opt out) commentary) that aren’t terribly missed, although most of Xzibit’s work in the movie is contained therein, so fans of 40 Dayz and 40 Nightz or Man vs. Machine take note. Also contained are a few featurettes: one chronicling the Rock’s day on set where he gets to suit back up in football duds and how quickly he became acclimated to it, another (curiously titled ‘Phil Joanou profile’, leading me to believe it would be something awesomely pompous) shows a few details about the filming. There’s a featurette showing the intensive training the cast went through in order to play out the football sequences to Joanou’s specifications as well as a multi-angle feature that goes to show that a shitload of footage must be shot in order to edit together an interesting and coherent football scene. There’s also a boatload of trailers, the highlight of which is The Messengers, written by CHUD-alum Smilin’ Jack Ruby.
As far as the cover art’s concerned, it shows you who’s in it. That’s about all that can be said for it. The poster art’s generic too, but a lot more aesthetically pleasing than a bunch of guys staring you down forming the ‘Flying V’.
Publicity still from Snakes on a Gridiron.
6.5 out of 10