The Rock, gang of teens portray gritty realism in Gridiron Gang

Like this weekend’s premieres, Gridiron Gang is a study in contrasts. As one would expect, the movie plays to its demographic – if you enjoyed Remember the Titans you will certainly find a lot to like about this film – but it also provides a startling juxtaposition between films like Titans and the tragic circumstances that surround troubled youths like the ones profiled here.

For every laugh the movie delivers they counter with an often graphic portrayal of the horrifying events these teens must witness and the emotional impact is amplified when you consider that the film is based on a true story.

While some characters and events are fictionalized, the bulk of the story – and even some of The Rock’s dialogue – is taken straight from footage captured in the Emmy-winning documentary on which the movie is based.

Casting these elements against each other, however, does disrupt the film in a few places and scenes are plagued by unevenness; just prior to a compelling drive-by scene there are a few jilted seconds of dialogue which seem just a step out of touch with reality. It would be less of an issue if the problem wasn’t repeated throughout the movie and while there are hiccups like this throughout the movie, the generally effective performances by a few talented young actors and an interesting, documentary-like visual style capably complement what is already a powerful, inspiring story.

The Rock’s performance is solid, although much flexing of his acting muscle isn’t necessitated; documentary footage included with the credits implies that his character, coach Sean Porter, was the sort of dry, slightly abrasive foot soldier that The Rock has already played in other movies. In his emotional scenes, however, he’s effective. By the end of the movie, though, it’s just as you might have expected: The story is so riveting and the message so positive that the cheese and predictability don’t really matter.

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