Reviewed by: Jennifer Constantine
|Featuring:||Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Xzibit, Danny Martinez, Maurice McRae, Mo, Trever O’Brien, Six Reasons, Brandon Smith, Jade Yorker, Robert Zepeda, Michael J. Pagan, Kevin Dunn, Leon Rippy|
|Producer:||Shane Stanley, Michael I. Rachmil, Ryan Kavanaugh|
|Distributor:||Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing|
“One Goal. A Second Chance.”
“Based on a true story, ‘Gridiron Gang’ sends out a message that one man can make a difference and the most hopeless kids in our society can change the course of their lives through hard work, commitment and bold leadership.”
For a football movie, I sure did feel like crying several times while watching “Gridiron Gang.” This is one of those movies that more people should see than probably will, if only because Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has yet to find his nitch on the big screen. Johnson is a huge success in the world of wrestling and has talent that just needs the right movie to showcase it. Johnson is a good guy, and with the exception of “The Scorpion King,” has always played one on screen. In his autobiographical book entitled The Rock Says, Johnson is at once humble, honest about his shortcomings, and frowns on the adultery that is present in the circuit when the wrestlers go on the road. And so with “Gridiron Gang,” we see a continuation of that same theme.
Based on a true story, the movie is set in LA, where gang activity seems to be a way of life for teenagers. Johnson plays Sean Porter, a juvenile detention camp probation officer who is frustrated at the lack of success the program is having. 75% of all the young boys that leave the center wind up back in jail or dead within a short amount of time. Out of desperation to reach these young men, many of whose parents have given up, Porter is inspired to have them form a football team. This is not without its challenges: the boys will have to work together (letting go of gang rivalries), submit to authority figures, work hard, and keep their grades up. And then there is the issue of who and where they will play.
It is not until Porter speaks to a Christian Principal that he gets his chance. Unfortunately, before that Principal relents, he has to be reminded by Porter’s fellow officer Moore that Jesus tells us to be merciful, not judge anything before it’s time, and if you give, it will be given back to you in good measure. But what I liked, also, about this movie was how real the characters were. How many times do we need a gentle reminder before we do the right thing?
Porter displays a lot of compassion when dealing with the youths. He seems to have a knack for knowing when to be the disciplinarian and when to ease up and just listen. But he’s also not afraid to speak the truth in love when one of the boys tries to make excuses for himself.
We also learn that Porter’s mom is dying (presumably from cancer), but she is a constant source of love and encouragement for him. In the scenes where she is present, we learn more about what drives Porter. His own dad berated him after every football game and was never able to provide the loving support that all boys need from their fathers.
Although Johnson is not 100% convincing when he has his big football speech moments (I kept expecting a People’s Eyebrow to slip in at any moment), Johnson is great with the intensely emotional scenes. One of the most memorable moments in the movie is when he is dealing with a youth named Willie who has seemingly lost it. Only days before, his friend was shot on the football field by a rival gang member who belonged to the same gang Willie was in before becoming incarcerated. The two had been able to stop hating each other and become friends. As he struggles to sort out his loyalties and subdue the rage he feels at the world, Johnson’s character encourages him to forgive those people who have hurt him, including his father. Willie asks him when he forgave his father. Johnson pauses, looks at the ceiling for a moment and then responds with tears in his eyes, “Just now.”
I caution parents to consider leaving anyone under 13 at home. What moviegoers will most likely find the most offensive is the language peppered throughout the movie. There are at least three instances of the Lord’s name being taken in vain, and a few instances of other curse words. There is a scene where the boys respond somewhat inappropriately at a passing car full of attractive women and Porter only smiles. There are several scenes where the boys are shown without shirts. There is a also violence, both on the field and off, but there is nothing too graphic. It is only shown to help viewers understand the world that the kids come from.
The thing however that bothered me the most was that other than one instance of Moore telling Porter to pray, because they could use all the help they can get, there is an element of humanism in the film that encourages viewers to believe in themselves. We are admonished that apart from Jesus, anything we do will not count. We are not to believe in ourselves, but to believe that through Christ (and Christ only) we can do all things (1 Peter 4:10-12).
As long as parents are able to communicate this with their children after the movie, I heartily recommend it. This is a movie that deals successfully with actions and consequences, as well as forgiveness and second chances.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor
Editor’s Note: According to a published report, “Gridiron Gang” includes at least one use of the f-word, plus five uses of God’s name in vain.