a critiQal film review Gridiron Gang (2006)

Plot: A detention camp employee named Sean Porter (The Rock), sick of seeing kids going back to the gang lifestyle, decides to implement a football program at the camp as a means to teach the kids self-respect and teamwork.

744 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 43s)

Since we are big fans of WWE Wrestling, we’ve been interested in The Rock’s movie career since he first showed up in The Mummy Returns (2001). So, when Gridiron Gang hit DVD, we wanted to see it as soon as possible.

The Rock has done a great job of not becoming just another wrestler-turned-actor. A few (like Hulk Hogan, for instance) are pigeon-holed into roles that show off their muscles rather than their acting talents (probably a good thing for Hulk Hogan). The Rock is actually making a decent name for himself as an actor, and appears to be shedding the wrestler-turned-actor stigma.

With most of his previous films (The Scorpion King (2002), The Rundown, Doom (2005) and even – to a degree – Walking Tall), he’s been the big action star of the film, and his character is the focus of the majority of the stunts.

In Gridiron Gang, he’s not involved in any of the stunts, and has to really step up to the plate to show what he can do without the benefit of flexing his muscles or handling everything with a gun (or a bat). And step up he does.

He’s perfect in the role of coach for these young inmates in Gridiron Gang. His character spends a lot of time talking about heart, and The Rock shows he’s got the heart to make his character work. While the movie is a bit sappy, The Rock’s performance is truly heartfelt. Maybe it’s the nostalgia aspect, as he gets to go back to his roots as a football player with the film. Whatever the reason, he’s a major reason this film works.

Xzibit, ex-rapper and host of MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” (TV) turns it up a notch as well, and works well as The Rock’s assistant coach. He isn’t in the limelight as much as The Rock is, but he’s always there in the background to lend a helping hand. It’s a great role for him, as he probably wouldn’t have been able to handle the top role at this point in his career. If Gridiron Gang is any indication, however, he’s got a career ahead of him as a good supporting actor.

The other characters in Gridiron Gang are well-acted, although they are not given as much depth as The Rock’s character. They are simply categorized into different “bad guys seeing the light” roles. While focusing on a few of them seeing the error of their ways, the film doesn’t really personalize most of them, leaving the viewer with the distinct impression that most of the team is just background noise – with only a few exceptions.

The few players that are highlighted are the real heart of Gridiron Gang. By focusing on only a few players, the film is able to drive home the message The Rock’s character Sean Porter is aiming at – that gangs are a dead-end, literally. While the film becomes overly sappy at times, force-feeding this moral down the viewer’s throat, this true story is still inspirational to watch.

Probably the biggest triumph of Gridiron Gang is a racial thing – actually the lack of a racial thing. In real life, Sean Porter is white, yet he’s portrayed by The Rock in the film. It’s impressive that The Rock was chosen, as they seemed to pick who would be best for the role without caring what color their skin was. It’s a huge step forward for Hollywood, and let’s hope that future Hollywood films continues this color-blind trend. Then, hopefully, the rest of the world will follow.

The only drawback to Gridiron Gang comes in it’s special features. While it does have a decent selection of extras, one is surprisingly absent. At the end of the film, as the credits roll, excerpts from a “Mustangs” documentary are shown…yet the documentary doesn’t appear in the special features. Why not? This seems like an obvious choice for a special feature, and yet is not included on the DVD. Why whet the viewer’s appetite for the documentary, and then not deliver? Maybe the filmmakers are saving that for the next “special edition” release of the film.

With an impressive performance by The Rock, Gridirion Gang, while a bit heavy-handed on pressing it’s moral on viewers, does a good job of presenting this true story in an entertaining way. With it’s football theme mixed with a moral, this one should be a shoo-in for both men and women. Check it out today.

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