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Brian Robbins
Keanu Reeves, Diane Lane, John Hawkes
Writing Credits:
John Gatins

An aimless young man agrees to coach a Little League team from the Cabrini Green housing project in Chicago as a condition of getting a loan from a friend to pay off gambling debts.

Box Office:
$32 million.
Opening Weekend
$9,386,342 on 2137 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13.


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $13.99
Release Date: 9/21/21

• Audio Commentary with Director Brian Robbins and Writer John Gatins
• “Making of Hardball” Featurette
• Music Video
• Deleted Scenes
• Interstitials
• Trailer


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Hardball [Blu-Ray] (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 3, 2021)

Keanu Reeves didn’t remain idle between 1999’s breakout hit The Matrix and its two 2003 sequels. Reeves cranked out five flicks in that span, with fall 2001’s Hardball his last project before he embarked on the long shoot for those two 2003 Matrix flicks.

Conor O'Neill (Reeves) runs up a large gambling debt. To pay it off, his pal Jimmy Fleming (Mike McGlone) offers Conor a lifeline – with strings attached.

Jimmy committed to coach a baseball team from an impoverished part of Chicago, and he promises to pay Conor to take over for him. Conor reluctantly agrees and finds himself involved in ways he didn’t expect.

But we will. No one should feel surprised when Conor slowly gets attached to his young pupils and begins to turn around his life.

We’ve seen stories like this a kajillion times. Does Hardball bring anything unusual or noteworthy to the table?

Not really. While Hardball occasionally attempts to alter the usual template, the movie comes heavy on clichés and melodrama but light on creativity.

Oh, Hardball does toss a couple curveballs our way, with one that seems out of place for this kind of inspirational tale. To avoid spoilers, I can’t say more, but this late-in-the-story scene comes across as gratuitous and problematic.

I get why the filmmakers went with the scene in question, as otherwise, this becomes a somewhat more dramatic version of Bad News Bears. Still, the sequence in question feels misguided and phony.

If I ignore that segment, I find a perfectly competent – if uninspired – stab at a “feel good” tale. I do appreciate the way Hardball avoids the usual “white savior” concept in which the white character comes in and “fixes” the lives of those pathetic Black kids.

Sure, Conor manages to help out the kids, but they really do more for him than he does for them. First Act Conor comes across as a total mess, whereas Third Act Conor seems on the way to redemption.

Of course, most of this seems like movie fantasy, for someone as messed up as First Act Conor feels unlikely to get back on track as well as Third Act Conor. Still, at least the movie doesn’t make him the one who saves those poor ghetto kids, which offers a twist from the standard template.

Otherwise, Hardball leans hard toward clichés. Really, if you’ve seen any other sports underdog story – particularly those about kids – you’ll know what to expect here.

Hardball brings obstacles overcome, lessons learned and attachments made. Not much about it deviates from that theme.

None of this makes Hardball a bad cinematic experience, as it manages some emotional impact despite the clichés. It does so largely without support from Reeves, who seems wooden as our lead.

If you look at Reeves’ iconic characters, the vast majority – Jack from Speed, Neo from Matrix and John Wick - offer action heroes without a lot of emotional range. Only Ted from Bill & Ted goes in another direction, but no one will view that role as one that requires dramatic chops.

Reeves seems like a great guy and he’s terrific in roles suited for his strengths, but Conor doesn’t fall into that category. Reeves simply can’t pull off the dramatic requirements of the role.

Nonetheless, Hardball remains a perfectly watchable underdog story. It simply never finds anything especially different or creative to say.

Weird coincidence: director Brian Robbins was born on November 22, 1963, one of the darkest days in US history. With a release date of September 14, 2001, Hardball became one of the first movies to come out after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Casting footnote: look for a very young Michael B. Jordan as one of the ballplayers.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Hardball appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a bland presentation.

Sharpness was good but not great. While the movie usually offered positive clarity, it could feel a bit soft, a factor aggravated by some light edge haloes.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred. In terms of print flaws, I saw specks and occasional other blemishes, though nothing extreme.

Colors felt decent but a little flat. The film went with a largely natural palette that lacked much to stand out as memorable.

Blacks seemed acceptable, while shadows were largely positive. This came across as a recycled DVD transfer, so don’t expect it to live it to 2021 standards.

Given the movie’s character focus, its DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack failed to deliver fireworks. A few scenes – baseball games, crowds, violence – broadened the soundscape’s horizons, but the scope remained restrained enough to make this a limited soundfield.

Audio quality appeared more than adequate, with speech that came across as natural and concise. Effects lacked much to do, but they showed acceptable accuracy and range.

Music seemed largely full and broad. This was a perfectly decent mix for a character drama.

As we move to extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Brian Robbins and writer John Gatins. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific view of story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, photography and related domains.

Expect a wholly mediocre commentary. At times, we get some good notes about the production. However, we also find more than a few spots of dead air as well as some banal material, all of which add up to a spotty chat.

The Making of Hardball runs 12 minutes, 25 seconds. The show brings notes from Robbins, executive producer Herb Gaines, assistant baseball coordinator Jason Robertson, baseball coordinator Mark Ellis, and actors Keanu Reeves, Diane Lane, Brian Ree, Bryan Hearne, Julian Griffith, A. Delon Ellis Jr., Michael Perkins, Michael B. Jordan, DeWayne Warren, John Hawkes, Kristopher Lofton and Mike McGlone,

The featurette covers story/characters, cast and performances, and Robbins’ impact on the production. A few minor insights emerge but the program remains superficial and promotional most of the time.

Three Deleted Scenes occupy a total of seven minutes, seven seconds. We find “Duffy’s Tavern” (3:58), “The Funeral Parlor” (1:27) and “Talking to the Kids” (1:42).

Oddly, these come in the reverse order of where they would fall in the movie, so “Tavern” would’ve appeared close to the end and “Kids” near to the start. “Tavern” actually offers some good character moments but it would’ve slowed the story’s progress. The other two are more comedic and superfluous.

Next comes a music video for “Hardball” by Lil’ Bow Wow, Lil’ Wayne, Lil’ Zane and Sammie. (Lil’ Sammie was busy?)

The song is no classic, but it’s catchy. Also, the video doesn’t excel, but at least it doesn’t recycle movie clips.

In addition to the film’s trailer, the disc concludes with Interstitials. We get three of these with a total running time of one minute, 16 seconds. They offer character-based ads and seem more creative than most promos.

If you expect Hardball to offer much more than the usual underdog movie clichés, you’ll largely encounter disappointment. This doesn’t make it a bad movie, but outside of one misguided choice late in the film, nothing here seems outside of the box. The Blu-ray comes with erratic visuals and decent audio and bonus materials. While this remains a watchable flick, it never rises above that level.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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