I've said it before and I'll say it again: sports films certainly don't rank as a favorite genre, due to the fact that they rarely - if ever - bring anything original to the table. While some exceed expectations in acting or other elements, chances are that they're still working up to a "big game" finale.
"Gridiron Gang" opens at Camp Kilpatrick, a detention facility run by Sean Porter ("The Rock", now credited as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.) Porter has to deal with tensions within the walls, including frequent fights and other trouble. Porter, upset about the fact that 75% of the kids who are released from the center fall back into a life of crime on the streets, decides to try and do something about it. Despite the fact that his bosses at the center are (not surprisingly) against it, his idea is to bring them together to compete as a football team, which would teach them teamwork, discipline and other necessary life lessons.
While the team originally has trouble finding other teams willing to compete against them, one finally does and, after an expected tough start, they're winning games. The movie follows the group as they come together as a team and work out their individual problems. The movie has some decent performances going for it and the fact that, while there are some Big Emotional Moments and speeches, the movie doesn't sell them too hard.
On the other hand, the film's major problem is that it doesn't have one unpexected moment; it's the underdog movie that has been done countless times before and it's quite predictable. Director Phil Joanou gives the film some visual snap, but the audience is constantly far ahead of the film, making it difficult to be all that involved, especially given the overlong 125 minute running time.
Once again, the Rock manages to bring a solid performance that's better than the material. Supporting players also give a bit more depth to their characters than what's in the script. Still, while "Gridiron" has a few moments and it has some aspects going for it, the formulaic, predictable script keeps the film from getting the first down.
VIDEO: "Gridiron Gang" is presented by Sony in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality is very good, although not exceptional. Sharpness and detail were fine throughout the sho, as while picture never appeared crystal clear, it at least remained crisp and detailed throughout the show. Some minor edge enhancement and a few instances of artifcating were spotted, but neither concern took too much away from the viewing experience. The film's subdued color palette appeared crisp and accurately presented.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack did not offer a whole lot beyond the basics. The audio was spread across the front soundstage, with minor reinforcement from the surrounds on a few occasions. Audio quality was fine, with crisp effects, music and dialogue. Overall, the sound design got the job done, but wasn't memorable in any way.
EXTRAS: Commentary from director Phil Joanau and writer Jeff Maguire, deleted scenes, football training featurette, director featurette, multi-angle football sequence, "The Rock Takes the Field" featurette and trailers.
Final Thoughts: While "Gridiron" has a few moments and it has some aspects going for it, the formulaic, predictable script keeps the film from getting the first down. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality and a nice set of extra features. Those interested should rent it.
The Film C+