The Rock -- already has the most solid career among ex-grapplers." />

 

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   Fri, September 15, 2006



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Gridiron Gang scores in an understated way
By JIM SLOTEK - Toronto Sun


The Rock in Gridiron Gang

Admittedly, the field of wrestlers-turned-thespian is underwhelming, and personal tastes vary (my favourite performance is still Rowdy Roddy Piper in They Live).

But while an Oscar is unlikely, Dwayne Johnson -- a.k.a. The Rock -- already has the most solid career among ex-grapplers.

In The Gridiron Gang, one of those true-life stories about wayward youth straightening out via the crucible of sports, The Rock takes on his most demanding role. Though it really only calls on him to yell at a bunch of kids, a la Samuel L. Jackson in Coach Carter, he does it for two solid hours, almost as well as Jackson.

Who knows? With another movie or two under his belt, The Rock might be ready to handle the inevitable sequel Snakes On Another Motherf---in' Plane!

The heartwarming quotient is high in this tale of Sean Porter, an officer at a Malibu youth detention centre who despairs at the recidivism rate among the gang-bangers in his care. Synchronicity being what it is, one of the kid's best friends Willie (Jade Yorker) soon ends up in the youth centre for killing his brutal stepfather -- providing Sean with another chance for redemption.

His new idea: Form the kids into a football team and enter them into the local high school league -- an exercise in collective effort and self-esteem building to overcome their ties to the street. Helping him overcome the bureaucracy is his pal and fellow youth counsellor Malcolm (rapper Xzibit).
THE GRIDIRON GANG
BOTTOM LINE: Nothing we haven't seen before (hello, Coach Carter). But journeyman director Phil Joanou stages football scenes reasonably well, the movie has the cred of not overstating its real-life story, and The Rock's acting seems to improve each time out.
2 hours
Voices: The Rock, Xzibit, Jade Yorker
Director: Phil Joanou
Rated: PG
Plot: A guard at a Malibu youth detention centre decides to instill self-esteem in his teenage charges by forming them into a football team and entering them in a tough local high school league. Based on a true story.
Sun Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

Like a "juvie" Longest Yard, minus the jokes, The Gridiron Gang settles into training camp, identifying the natural athletes, sifting out the "trainer" material and the washouts who don't have what it takes. The Rock even gets the odd break from yelling once in a while with a subplot of his own, a dying mom to give the kids something else to rally around.

Soon they're taking out their aggression on snotty rich white kids from local Malibu high schools and becoming better people for it -- the main dramatic hurdle being whether Willie and Kelvin (David V. Thomas), opposing gang members on the outside, will bury their differences and be teammates.

Do they? Hey, I'm tired of being accused of spoilerism.

To its credit, The Gridiron Gang doesn't overstate what Sean Porter did -- admitting in its end crawl that some central characters didn't do too well once the crowd noise died down.

Still it's an upbeat story, with reasonably well-staged football scenes, a decent diversion overall.

RELATED LINKS

  • Gridiron role tailor-made for The Rock
  • More on The Rock
  • The SLAM! Wrestling Movie Database


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