out of Five
Running time: 125
Watchable, decently made drama with some strong performances, but the script is disappointing given the real-life story behind the film.
What's it all about?
An inspirational teacher movie, based on a true story and inspired by a documentary (which we see clips of during the closing credits). Gridiron Gang stars Dwayne - The Rock - Johnson as juvenile detention centre guard Sean Porter, who realises that 75 per cent of his gang-member inmates will either return to prison or get killed on the streets in gang-related violence.
An ex-high school football player himself, Sean decides to turn his multi-racial teenage crims into a football team, hoping to break down some gangland barriers and teach them something about pride and teamwork. Several cliche-laden setbacks occur and the authorities keep threatening to shut down the programme, but when the team realise that they might have a shot at the play-offs, the inspirational teacher movie cliches are swapped for sports movie cliches instead.
Johnson is an extremely charismatic actor but it's a shame the role doesn't allow him to flex his comedy muscles as well as his physical ones. He's also not quite as good at the inspirational speeches (of which there are several) but you do at least get the feeling that he genuinely cares about the kids.
The supporting performances are good particularly Jade Yorker as Willie, the gang member whose story forms the main sub-plot. However, the film completely wastes Xzibit in an underwritten role as Sean's assistant coach.
The main problem is that the film struggles to do anything original with its matching sets of cliches and as a result its emotional climaxes don't really pay off. This is a shame because, as the documentary clips show, the characters were closely based on real people with real stories.
The Rock's presence means that this is never less than watchable, but you'll probably come out of it wishing you had watched the documentary instead.
Gridiron Gang (12A)