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GRIDIRON GANG

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Xzibit, Kevin Dunn, Leon Rippy
Director: Phil Joanou
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Sony Home Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 125 Minutes
Release Date: January 16, 2006

“On the gridiron, we play football. On the gridiron, we do it my way. Not your way, my way. Your way got you here.”

Film ***

Despite there being plenty of football films released in the past two years, from Friday Night Lights to The Longest Yard to We Are Marshall, there is something about them that get the viewer wrapped up. The recently mentioned films are jus so well made that, like a real game of football, you can’t help but get caught up in the action. And like many of the recent films about the sport, Gridiron Gang is based on a true story, and though the football movie clichés haven’t gone away, this story has a huge emotional edge to it.

The film documents one man’s determination to put together a football team of young men who have gone on the wrong path of society and at a young age. The location is Camp Kilpatrick detention center in Los Angeles. Youth detention officer Sean Porter (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in his most effective performance yet), tired of resorting to the traditional ways of disciplining his charges.

Along with fellow detention officer Malcolm Moore (Xzibit), Porter proposes to the camp administrators that a football team of inmates be created to play local high schools. The goal is to teach the troubled youths the importance of teamwork, discipline and being able to look past their individual differences. It does give many of inmates to shine on the field, since a good many of them participated in sports prior to being behind bars.

And before long, Porter has created a team of Mustangs, and the team takes to the field. Though they experience a slow start as far as winning goes, they soon encounter a sheer level of glory on the field. And Porter gains the full support of his team of his inmates, who for once gain a feeling of self-respect.

The opening segments of Gridiron Gang are really hard hitting as they explore the violent deeds that lead a character named Willie (Jade Yorker) to the camp. After dodging drive by gunshots from a gang (a most startling scene), and a failed attempt at retaliation, Willie comes home and does something unexpected. He guns down his mother’s abusive boyfriend.

Terrifically directed by Phil Joanou (who also did the U2 documentary Rattle and Hum) and passionately acted by The Rock, Gridiron Gang is a most effective sports movie/true story. If  you can look past the expected sports movie or prison movie clichés, I think you’ll find a most noteworthy and gripping movie experience.

Video ****

Sony throws another fantastic looking presentation all the way into the end zone! Phil Joanou is a visually impressive filmmaker, and his vision is grandly enhanced with this stellar presentation. The anamorphic presentation is alive thoroughly with clear and incredibly sharp picture and amazingly vibrant colors. Not a single image flaw in sight! A visual DVD touchdown!

Audio ****

The gridiron action is captured wonderfully in the 5.1 mix format. From the hard hitting violence in the film’s opening segments, to the non stop, hard hitting play on the football field, the sound mix gets plenty to work with. Dialogue delivery and music playback also get terrific treatment. No yellow flag on this play.

Features ***1/2

A package of extras that’s definitely not worth sacking the quarterback over. Featured on the disc are Deleted Scenes, Commentary with director Phil Joanou and writer Jeff Maguire, Gridiron Gang Football Training, a Phil Joanou Profile, The Rock Takes the Field and a Multi-Angle: Football Scene.

Summary:

The Rock soars in Gridiron Gang and takes it all the way into the end zone. This is a powerful and crowd-pleasing piece of entertainment that is bound to rock and sock you with its bone crunching football and effective emotion.

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