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Coach Carter (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None listed at time of going to press

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 in life.

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 record.

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.

 

 

 

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