I caught Gridiron Gang much in the same way that I did Bullitt a week or two before: unexpectedly while channel-surfing. The difference is that Bullitt was a pleasant surprise, whereas Gridiron Gang is the epitome of mediocrity. Which is a pity cause, after reading about the subject matter, it really deserved a better treatment.
The film follows Sean Porter (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), a worker at Kilpatrick Detention Center. Frustrated with the fate that befalls most of his young detainees upon being released, Porter starts a football team - the Kilpatrick Mustangs - with some of them to teach them discipline, teamwork, and leadership. And so begins the endless parade of sports films clichés: the reluctant participants, the motivational speeches, the lack of equipment, the personal struggles of the kids, the inevitable bonding, the administrative obstacles, the crucial game, the inspirational halftime speech, etc. etc.
Some parts still work, at least a little; and Johnson has some moments here and there. But everything is so bogged down by predictability and melodrama. I lost count of how many shots of teammates patting themselves in the sunset were on the film, or how much the dramatic, crescendo music was overused, but it was overkill.
The final game pushed all the known buttons. Most of the key players are given the chance to shine, but the team still falls behind by halftime. If you don't know what will happen after that, or if you didn't know it after 30 minutes of watching the film, you haven't seen enough movies. Meh.
In the end, we see documentary clips of the real Sean Porter and the real Mustangs, which kinda puts in perspective how some scenes from the film were actually inspired by real events. As a matter of fact, it made me curious to actually watch a documentary about the real events, instead of a cheesy, predictable, soap-opera like version of the story. Grade: C-
(All pictures belong to Columbia Pictures and its affiliates)