2004 Running time: 136 Certificate: 12 Rating: 3

Synopsis

Samuel L Jackson is the brusque college basketball coach who insists on results on - and off - the court in this retelling of an inspirational true story. Jackson's assured performance provides the bedrock of a drama that while understandably veering into sentiment, makes a refreshing change from the 'win at all costs' mentality that can turn even the most likeable underdogs into snarling beasts.

Director

  • Thomas Carter

Cast

  • Samuel L Jackson

  • Ashanti

  • Robert Ri'chard

  • Debbi Morgan

  • Rob Brown

Review

The one notable thing about this otherwise routine basketball outing is that it doesn't follow the received American wisdom that it's all about winning.

Coach Carter (Jackson), a besuited parade ground disciplinarian insists - rather unconvincingly - that his hoops team can nail "that elusive victory within".

What that basically means is that they can rise above the the poor hand fate has dealt them and land a place in college rather than clink.

A bit like Dodgeball - but without the gags - he fashions the team of ghetto no-hopers into a lean, mean winning machine...until they flunk in school.

When they fail to honour their pledge to attend all classes, sit in the front row and get decent grades...he padlocks the gym and cancels all future games.

At the time, Ken Carter's decision caused a furore, attracting news crews to the California campus and prompting outraged headlines across the country.

TV veteran Thomas Carter (no relation) has crafted a perfectly workmanlike tale of human conviction even if he should have called time out twenty minutes earlier.

Imagine Alex Ferguson locking up Old Trafford ahead of a Champions League qualifier because Giggsy, Keano and the Nevilles couldn't be bothered to work out Pythagoras.

To the families from the deprived projects - faced with a future for their sons of crime or, at best, dead end jobs - Carter's decision didn't make any sense.

But time is taken to sketch in the various backstories - the hustler who just might end up on the streets, the teen considering fatherhood and the coach's own son, who just wants to be with his dad.

Occasionally over-sentimental and veering towards the wonderful world of Walt in the later stages, this wins our hearts largely thanks to decent acting and Jackson's assured performance.

A feelgood movie that does pretty much what it says on the tin.

You may also like