We’ve all seen this story many times before whether it be “Remember the Titans”, “Dangerous Minds”, “Varsity Blues”, “Hoosiers”, etc. Troubled kids in a dangerous neighbourhood find inspiration from a teacher with high morals and strong discipline. Along the way there’s a fall from grace, someone usually gets hurt or killed, and these kids learn to be better people.
So while there’s absolutely nothing new in this return to a well trodden field, it does go to show that the formula still works fine, especially if it’s built on someone with the strength of Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson delivers an absolutely superb performance, something he hasn’t done in a while, that ultimately lifts this above the very average and holds your attention for much of its all too long run time.
Director Thomas Carter brings a straight forward and simple approach to the film’s look, never grandstanding or fast editing – rather allowing us time to get to know some of these guys and more importantly the coach. The script is a decent pedestrian effort that hits the right chords when needed, despite a complete lack of anything in the way of innovation.
As a result, there’s little in the way of tension which means the standard end of film ‘big game’ has practically no excitement or suspense. Still, a strong young cast and Jackson’s winning sensibility and charisma, combine to drive this along nicely. It’s comfort food, familiar but satisfying.