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Phil Joanou
The Rock, Xzibit, L. Scott Caldwell, Leon Rippy, Kevin Dunn, Jade Yorker, David V. Thomas, Setu Taase, Mo, James Earl
Writing Credits:
Jeff Maguire, Jac Flanders (film, "Gridiron Gang")

One goal. A second chance.

Juvey detention camp officer Sean Porter (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) and his friend Malcolm Moore (Xzibit) turn a group of teen felons into a football team in four weeks. Confronted with gang rivalries between his teammates, Porter teaches the former thugs self-respect and responsibility.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$14.414 million on 3504 screens.
Domestic Gross
$38.432 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.40:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0

Runtime: 125 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 1/16/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Phil Joanou and Writer Jeff Maguire
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• “Football Training” Featurette
• Phil Joanou Profile
• “The Rock Takes the Field” Featurette
• Multi-Angle Football Scene
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Gridiron Gang (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 3, 2007)

What happened to Phil Joanou? Back in the Eighties, he seemed like an up-and-coming young director. He scored a high-profile gig with U2’s Rattle and Hum documentary and also made a well-received teen comedy in 1987’s Three O’Clock High. After that, however, he never went much of anywhere, a path that brought him to feel-good piffle like 2006’s Gridiron Gang.

Gang takes us to Camp Kilpatrick, a juvenile detention center. When former resident Roger Weathers (Michael J. Pagan) gets shot to death immediately after his release, this brings about a few results. For one, Roger’s cousin Willie (Jade Yorker) tries to get revenge on Roger’s assailants. This doesn’t happen, but he ends up killing his mother’s abusive boyfriend, an action that sends him to Camp Kilpatrick.

In addition, Roger’s demise inspires camp supervisor Sean Porter (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to find a way to better reach the kids. He decides to form the kids into a football team so they can learn to be a unit. He encounters resistance from many sides but gets his wish. The movie follows his efforts with the kids as well as some specifics about Willie and a few other kids.

On the surface, Gang looks like a teen version of The Longest Yard, the flick most easily associated with the concept of a prison football team. However, while Yard mostly played its story for laughs, Gang aims firmly for the heartstrings it wants to pull as we root for its crew of young ne’er-do-wells to make good.

To a degree, we do root for the Camp Kilpatrick Mustangs to succeed, but that’s more a reflection of our basic expectations. We go into underdog stories like this with a reflexive desire to see the best from its characters. Some flicks come across as so relentlessly sappy that the trends backfire, but most at least manage to keep us interested in the participants.

Unfortunately Gang can’t execute anything more dynamic than to tap basic emotions. From start to finish, the movie follows a relentlessly predictable path. All story and character elements could be anticipated well in advance, as the tale never brings out anything remotely new or fresh to the genre. We know exactly where it’ll go well before it gets there.

That would be fine if the movie managed to form a little style along the way. However, Gang comes across as an uninspired paint by numbers feel-good flick. With lines like “Let’s try the impossible, because the possible just ain’t workin’”, we’re stuck with insipid dialogue, and the performances fail to bring the one-dimensional characters to life. Even the score follows the usual patterns; it gives us the standard swells and heart-tugging notes as it develops along expected patterns.

This becomes the biggest flaw in Gridiron Gang: it simply offers nothing fresh or original. It feels like 100 other movies and never threatens to form its own identity. For what it is, the flick stays watchable, but that’s the most I can say for it.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Gridiron Gang appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a competent transfer but not anything exceptional.

Sharpness was usually fine. Some light edge enhancement meant that wide shots occasionally appeared a bit iffy, but those instances cropped up without great frequency. Most of the movie seemed adequately defined. Jagged edges and shimmering created no concerns, and I noticed no signs of source flaws.

Gang went with a decidedly desaturated palette. It went with a somewhat flat blue or tan edge much of the time and kept its colors restricted. The tones looked find within those constraints, but don’t expect much from them. Blacks were acceptably dark and dense, but shadows tended to be somewhat thick. The low-light shots seemed murkier than I expected. Ultimately, the movie looked fine despite some minor concerns.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Gridiron Gang, it worked fine for the material. The soundfield failed to offer much ambition. Music showed good stereo imaging, and the football games opened up the spectrum to a reasonable degree. None of this brought the elements substantially to life, though, as the mix remained pretty subdued much of the time.

Audio quality satisfied. Speech seemed natural and crisp, with no edginess or other issues. Music appeared lively and dynamic, while effects displayed good accuracy and heft. This was a solid mix despite the somewhat unambitious soundfield.

A decent roster of supplements fills out the disc. We find an audio commentary from director Phil Joanou and writer Jeff Maguire. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion. They chat about facts and liberties, other inspirations and attempts at realism, cast, characters and performances, editing and cut scenes, sets and locations, shooting the football sequences, and other production issues.

Overall, this turns into a decent commentary. It provides a good sense of the basics and manages to remain reasonably interesting most of the time. We get too much praise and a smidgen of dead air, but otherwise this is a fairly useful discussion.

15 Deleted Scenes last a total of 23 minutes, nine seconds. Most of these amount to character extensions. We get a little tension between Sean and Dexter, and we also learn a bit more about the various kids. Xzibit actually shows up as more than just an extra; these bits flesh out his character to a moderate degree. There’s some extra football action as well. A couple of scenes probably should have stayed but most seem superfluous.

We can watch these with or without commentary from Joanou and Maguire. They provide a few notes about the scenes and occasionally – but not always – tell us why they dropped the shots. The material’s useful at times but too inconsistent.

Gridiron Gang: Football Training runs six minutes, 13 seconds. It includes notes from Joanou, Maguire, stunt/football coordinator Allan Graf, executive producer Shane Stanley, producer Neal H. Moritz, and actors Mo, Trever O’Brien, James Earl III, David Thomas, and Setu Taase. As implied by the title, “Training” looks at the work done to create the movie’s football sequences. Some good behind the scenes footage dominates and makes this a tight and informative program.

A look at the director comes in the Phil Joanou Profile. It goes for four minutes, eight seconds as it shows remarks from Joanou, Maguire, Moritz, and actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. This piece looks at Joanou’s interest in the film and his work for it. Some decent notes emerge in this reasonably solid little overview.

A featurette called The Rock Takes the Field goes for four minutes, 10 seconds. It presents comments from Johnson, Joanou, and actor Xzibit. The piece looks at the scene in which Johnson dons football garb to work with the kids. Don’t expect much substance from this blah short.

Next we get a Multi-Angle Football Scene. We can check out five different angles of the segment or check them all out at once via a composite screen. The clip runs three minutes, 37 seconds. This compilation gives us a fun way to see all of the different football options.

The DVD opens with some ads. We get promos for Stomp the Yard, Ghost Rider and Crossover. These also appear in the disc’s Previews area along with trailers for The Messengers, Facing the Giants, The Covenant, Rudy and Blu-Ray titles.

If you expect anything new or exciting from Gridiron Gang, you’ll leave it disappointed. The film follows a relentlessly predictable path that does nothing to inspire or excite. The DVD gives us good picture and audio as well as a mix of decent extras. I’ve seen many flicks like Gang and most of them were superior to this warmed-over inspirational tripe.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.64 Stars Number of Votes: 25
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