The on-field choreography was quite good, and the plot moves along at a nice place, with various turns that keep the story moving.  Although the film runs 125 minutes, you won’t notice the length, because you’ll be too caught up in the story.  Don’t forget to watch the interviews at the end of the credits, which were taken from the documentary and feature the real Sean Porter with some of the players.  The DVD extras are also fairly interesting.

If there is a cliché in the film, it’s not in the football story.  It’s the subplot about Porter and his dying mother.  But even that doesn’t detract from the film, and it never veers into melodrama.  Mostly, it serves to humanize Porter and to round out his character.  Although this could have been done with more finesse, it works.

Despite the subject matter, “Gridiron Gang” is not a film for children.  The opening sequences and one toward the end of the film are extremely violent, in the style of “Boyz in the Hood,” and the film is full of prison-style language.  For anyone who understands the power of sports to transform a boy into a man, and a man into a role model, however, this is definitely the film to watch. 

For some, football is just a game.  For others – like boys who have no reason to live, and nothing left but hope – football really is life.  So get ready to flick away a few tears, gentlemen.  This one will hit you like a defensive linebacker – right in the gut.

AUDIENCE:  Older teens and up

DVD EXTRAS:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Commentary with writer and director
  • “Gridiron Gang” football training featurette
  • “Phil Joanou Profile” – interview with director Phil Joanou
  • “The Rock Takes the Field” – interview with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
  • “Multi-Angle – Football Scene” featurette

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:   Mild.  References to crack cocaine and marijuana use; characters briefly slug alcohol from the bottle in one scene.
  • Language/Profanity:   Strong.  Several dozen obscenities and profanities, one strong, in the context of a juvenile prison.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  Mild and brief.  Female prisoners acting as cheerleaders gyrate suggestively.
  • Violence:   Extreme in several brief scenes that include a deadly drive-by shooting, two point-blank shootings (one in self-defense) and an extremely violent murder of a young boy with a car. The rest of the film contains mostly threats of violence and fist fights.