JeffVice's Review of Gridiron Gang

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"Gridiron Gang" has neither the warm fuzziness of "Invincible" nor the bone-crunching thrills of "Friday Night Lights." And at two hours, it feels long, some of that due to the tiresome music video-style direction of Phil Joanou ("Heaven's Prisoners," "U2: Rattle and Hum"). Still, this inspirational material is appealing, and if nothing else, it's a considerable improvement over Adam Sandler's remake of "The Longest Yard," which is similar, at least in a few superficial respects. Pro wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars in this drama, which was inspired by a 1993 documentary of the same title. He plays Sean Porter, a former football star who's now working at a juvenile-detention center in Los Angeles. Like his co-workers, Sean is looking for ways to inspire the teens he's supervising, many of whom are gang members or involved in the drug trade. So he decides to organize a football team, hoping it will give his young charges some much-needed discipline. As expected, he encounters some resistance from his higher-ups. And finding opponents to play — from local high school teams — is nearly impossible. And when he finally gets past those obstacles, he has just weeks to whip the team into shape. Though he does have one star player — Willie Weathers (Jade Yorker), a gang member with some serious speed. Filmmaker Joanou spends too much time in the set-up, leaving too little time to address the various supporting characters and subplots (particularly, rapper Xzibit's camp-counselor character). However, Johnson is a charismatic presence and redeems the film to a certain degree. He even tones down his sometimes cartoonish mannerisms, such as the eyebrow lifting and melodramatic intonations. Johnson also has a believable onscreen friendship with Yorker (TV's "Third Watch"). "Gridiron Gang" is rated PG-13 for strong scenes of violence (including gang shootings, brawling and football violence, and vehicular violence), occasional strong profanity (including a usage of the so-called "R-rated" curse word), use of racial epithets and crude sexual slang terms, and some brief drug content (references). Running time: 120 minutes. E-MAIL:
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Okfor ages12+