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Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars in this gritty and inspirational movie based on a true story of a group of teenage delinquents given a second chance to redeem themselves by playing football. Sean Porter (Johnson) is a frustrated juvenile probation officer. Most of the kids in his detention camp are either sent back to prison once they leave or meet a violent end when they return to the streets. Desperately looking for a way to make a difference, he and his co-worker Malcolm Moore devise a plan to teach discipline and responsibility through the game of football. But with only four weeks before the start of the season, Porter must overcome insurmountable odds to put together a competitive team. It's a season that will test their minds, spirit, and bodies as Porter teaches his players the principles of good character, strength through resiliency, and genuine respect for one another.
For more about Gridiron Gang and the Gridiron Gang Blu-ray release, see Gridiron Gang Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 12, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jade Yorker, Xzibit, Leon Rippy, Kevin Dunn, L. Scott Caldwell
Director: Phil Joanou
» See full cast & crew
Gridiron Gang Blu-ray Review
Another inspirational sports movie is also a wonderfully crafted Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 12, 2007
You're no longer a Blood, you're no longer a Crip, no longer an esť. You're a Mustang.
Another day, another inspirational football movie. The one good thing about all of the recent football movies like Invincible and We Are Marshall is that they are all actually pretty darn good. Each features a good, uplifting message on top of quality production values, acting, directing, and solid entertainment. These films are sure to move you emotionally by the time the final credits roll, too. Gridiron Gang is no exception. It may turn off some viewers as it features some heavier language than the other two, but make no mistake, it's every bit as inspirational nonetheless.
Like it's contemporaries, Gridiron Gang is based on a true story. The setting is Camp Kilpatrick, a juvenile detention center housing members of rival gangs and kids who can't stay out of major trouble. Malcolm Moore (Xzibit, Full Clip) and Sean Porter (Dwayne Johnson, The Game Plan) are the supervisors and the only friends any of the kids have, whether the kids want to believe or accept it or not. As the movie opens, Porter is forced to discipline a young man set to be released the next day. Upon his release, he is gunned down in a drive-by shooting. His cousin Willie Weathers (Jade Yorker, Snow Day) is a witness. When he arrives home, he sees his mother has once again been beaten by her boyfriend, and Willie shoots him three times, killing him instantly. Willie ends up taking his cousin's spot at Kilpatrick and finds himself in a the middle of a new plan to revitalize the program that Sean has devised. He wants to form a football team. Objections are raised, notably that the detenion center is trying to limit exposure to violence, but Sean persists, claiming that football will give them something to focus their attention on, a method to let loose their tension and anger, and that the boys will bond, crossing gang and ethnic lines as they form a single, unified group. As the story progresses, the players go through various trials and tribulations, some members quit and rejoin the team, they lose some games, they start to win, and, well, you know the drill.
I believe that football themed movies make for the best inspirational films. The camaraderie, the teamwork, the pain, and the raw emotions of the sport will result in, if done correctly, a powerful and compelling movie. Dwayne Johnson is no stranger to football. The ex-wrestler is also an ex-collegiate athlete. He played defensive tackle for the 1991 Miami Hurricanes National Championship team. We the audience are also no strangers to this genre of football movie. It combines the inspiration theme seen in the above mentioned films with the prison-football angle of The Longest Yard. The moral here is not only about improving one's own outlook on life and the way it is lived but about becoming complete. As the fractured football team comes together as one, so too do the fractured individuals become whole people with goals and ambitions all the while having a place to let loose the angers and frustrations they have encountered in the real world. The real pleasure here is watching Dwayne Johnson going through a metamorphosis of sorts, showing a range as an actor he never demonstrated before, having stared in only action vehicles such as The Scorpion King and Doom. He puts on some pretty raw emotions here and plays a very believable role as the inspirational Sean Porter. Johnson is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors and proving he's more than just a well built body good at blowing things up.
Gridiron Gang Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sony presents Gridiron Gang in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This 1080p presentation is one of the finer transfers to date on Blu-ray. The film seems to be shot in a pseudo-documentary "light" approach with some slightly shaky handheld camera work complete with some rapid but small zooms. It's noticeable but not distracting and I felt it added a nice feel to the realism of the movie, almost as if we were a participant in the film. Some viewers may be turned off by some grain that is present throughout, especially in darker scenes, but worry not. This disc is simply reproducing what you'd see with the original film stock, and the result is magnificent. Black levels are very good. There are some borderline scenes where blacks are a tad crushed and some finer detail in dark scenes is lost, but the disc generally handles these instances very well and there is no major problems in this regard. The image overall is a stunner. As the movie begins, we are treated to a fairly drab color scheme, mostly inside the dormitory and on the practice field. However, once the first game is played, the lush greens of the gridiron and the vibrant hues of the uniforms really strike the viewer with high detail, sharpness, and cleanliness. Colors are rich and accurate, and there is no color bleeding to be seen. Flesh tones too appear natural with close attention to high detail in close-ups. The image is very sharp and crisp without resorting to edge enhancement. This is a fine transfer from Sony and is one of the many aspects that makes this Blu-ray version of Gridiron Gang a champion.
Gridiron Gang Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Sony has one again provided for your listening pleasure an uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack running at 4.6 Mbps. The result is a robust and enthralling sonic experience that is one of the best the format has to offer. Early on in the film one may think that this is a pretty run of the mill affair. It's mostly dialogue save for a shooting, but the film takes off once cleats hit turf for the Mustang's first game of the season. The first thing you'll hear is the incredibly lifelike crowd noises. Cheers and screams fill the room and surround you, practically putting you in the bleachers. Once the game starts, however, you may want to strap on some shoulder pads and get ready for some hard, and I do mean hard hits that come into your living room. The sounds of shoulder pads crashing, bones crunching, and bodies slamming into the turf makes for an almost painful listening experience, but painful in a good way. You'll swear you're in the middle of the action and the only thing that will keep you firmly entrenched in reality is that you'll walk away from the movie without any bruises, dislocated fingers, or broken bones. It's powerful stuff to be sure and demonstrates the vital importance of a powerful high definition sound experience. Blu-ray offers it almost as a rule, others generally do not. Outside of the games, dialogue is clear, natural, and never drowned. Bass is used to good effect, and surrounds are active, adding to the atmosphere and enveloping nature of the track. If you love football, this movie, or both, and you currently are not equipped to play uncompressed PCM tracks, this disc is as good a reason as any to upgrade your system.
Gridiron Gang Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sony has provided a nice, average round of supplements on this disc. First up is a feature commentary track with director Phil Joanou and writer Jeff Maguire. The track is pretty technical but there is quite a bit of good detail here. They discuss writing an authentic script, finding actors for some of the parts, and working with Dwayne Johnson and Xzibit. The track starts off slow but it picks up momentum and it'll draw you in. This is a very nice track that is a wonderful compliment to a very good movie.
Next up are 15 deleted scenes (1080p, 23:19) with optional commentary from Joanou and Maguire. Gridiron Gang: Football Training (480p, 6:20) is a nice feature that shows the actors getting in shape mentally and physically to play convincing football and shooting the film to make the football action as exciting as possible.
A Phil Joanou Profile (480p, 4:08) is just what it sounds like it is: a short piece that looks at the director's take on the film and its messages. The Rock Takes the Field (480p, 4:10) is a look behind-the-scenes of Dwayne Johnson's scene where he challenges Willie Weathers on the practice field in a full pads, full contact confrontation. Multi-Angle: Football Scene allows you to look at five different angles of the same scene. Pretty nifty. Finishing the supplements are trailers for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Click, Little Man, Into the Blue, and a Blu-ray promotional montage. I don't know how feasible it would have been, but I wish the 1993 documentary that this film is based on could have been included.
Gridiron Gang Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Gridiron Gang is another offering in the recent surge of the "Inspirational Sports" genre. Perhaps the grittiest of the bunch, it portrays a group of inner city youths who put their hatred aside to become something special--a football team that learns to work together as one to become something great. It shows how the power of belief and faith in an idea can engender greatness. Dwayne Johnson gives perhaps the best performance of his still burgeoning career as the catalyst for the formation of the team. His depiction of Sean Porter is tough yet heartfelt. It's not Oscar caliber, of course, but it shows the musclebound actor has good range and is undoubtedly destined for good things down the road. This is an excellent Blu-ray disc all around. Great audio and video quality and a fair helping of supplements support this fine movie. Recommended.
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