Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None listed at time of going to
A TYPICALLY charismatic central performance from Samuel L Jackson
does much to paper over the cracks of this true story about an
inspirational Bay Area basketball coach who got his students to
achieve good grades, as well as realise their hoop dreams.
Jackson plays Coach Ken Carter, a dedicated and proud man, who
decides to take on the under-achievers of Richmond High and use
basketball as a means to push them on to greater achievements
He wants to win, of course, but only if this can also be reflected
in the students' grades.
In real-life, Coach Carter achieved national notoriety when he
made the controversial decision to bench the whole of his team
until they had sorted things out academically.
And the film's dramatic highpoint comes when Carter adopts the
same tactic on-screen, thereby jeopardising his side's undefeated
Yet prior to that, director, Thomas Carter, seems content to
build on the characters that populate the story, from Rich Gonzalez's
gang-related trouble-maker, to Rob Brown's most promising natural
talent, whom Carter earmarks for a college future.
Theres's also Carter's own son, played
by Robert Ri'chard, who gives up a place at an expensive private
school so that he can continue to be coached by his dad at Richmond
High, as well as the usual bunch of bad boys waiting to be saved.
Yet as enjoyable as the film remains, audiences may have trouble
differentiating it from any number of inspirational teacher/ triumph
against the odds stories they have seen countless times before.
The fact that it is also about basketball - a sport more popular
in America than it is in the UK - may also hinder its chances
of being embraced by British viewers.
In terms of originality, the film bears comparisons with everything
from Remember The Titans to Dangerous Minds, with elements of
Dead Poets Society and Boyz In The Hood thrown in for good measure.
And Jackson, too, is guilty of resorting to shouty histrionics
a little too often, thereby threatening to diminish the impact
of his performance, while the over-reliance on inspirational speech-making
is something the movie could well do without.
A sub-plot involving the pregnant girlfriend of one of the players
(which gives singer, Ashanti, her big-screen breakthrough), also
feels unnecessary and could quite easily have been chopped from
an already generous running time.
That said, the basketball sequences are genuinely exciting and
shot with a great deal of gusto and the camaraderie that exists
between most of the main players translates well to the audience.
For those reasons alone, and for Jackson's heartfelt central
performance, the film remains worth seeing.