I tried making little marks in my notepad for each one of the sports film clichés "Gridiron Gang" steamrolled during the course of its story, but I got a little distracted, forgot to look where I was writing, and ended up marking up the pant leg of the woman in the seat next to me.
"Gridiron Gang" is "The Longest Yard" meets "The Bad News Bears" - in other words, a film that feels like it was spit out of a computer. Sean Porter (The Rock) is a counselor in a juvenile detention center who decides, despite the shocking objections of his superiors, that what his group of juvenile delinquent charges needs to boost their self-esteem is to play football and be a part of a team.
If you didn't already know, playing football solves every possible problem imaginable. Involved in gang warfare? Just play football and you will learn to come together with your enemy. Have difficulty relating to your mother? Just play football and mom will stop drinking long enough to show you her love. Are you a big, hulking brute who has no friends and can only relate to others through violence? Play football and you'll soon be able to differentiate between improper violence off the field and proper violence on the field. And are you a coach whose relationship with his father has clouded everything you've ever tried to accomplish in life? Just coach a football team of disaffected youth, bring them together, teach them the meaning of teamwork, and your own life will have new meaning and purpose.
There's not a single thing that happens in "Gridiron Gang" that hasn't already been played out in a hundred different sports films before it. The story centers on Willie Weathers (Jade Yorker), who's the brother of a character Sean thought he had persuaded to give up the street life. Willie enters detention and immediately focuses on a rival gang member, which of course means that by film's end the two will achieve every means of conflict resolution short of moving to Massachusetts and getting married.
Like "Invincible" before it, "Gridiron Gang" is supposedly based on a true story, which is about as meaningful as saying it was researched on the Internet. Whether it's based on a true story or concocted by a drunk mountain gorilla, the only sure thing is that Hollywood will turn any story of sports achievement into some easily identifiable piece of flotsam. If there's anybody out in the real world anymore who thinks "based on a true story" means anything, please stand up and be heard.
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