Best known for directing U2's 'Rattle and Hum' film, Phil Joanou's career has been nothing if not varied. He's also worked with U2 on the videos for 'Bad', 'One' and 'All Because of You'; directed the vastly underrated Irish mafia drama 'State of Grace' and experienced flops with 'Final Analysis' and 'Heaven's Prisoners'. Now he's had a Number One box office hit in the US with 'Gridiron Gang', an American football movie with some good points and plenty of predictability.
Based on the true story of the football team at juvenile detention facility Camp Kilpatrick in California, 'Gridiron Gang' follows the efforts of probation officers Sean Porter (The Rock) and Malcolm Moore (Xzibit) to use the sport to convince their young charges that they can have a future.
Having seen most of the teenagers he's dealt with ending up dead or in prison, Porter goes to the authorities with the suggestion that a football team could teach the boys everything that is currently missing in their lives.
Initially reluctant, the powers that be eventually give Porter the green light and he soon finds the team a place in a local league. He then sets about trying to restore some self-belief and pride in the troubled youth in his care. Along the way they must overcome their gang-related animosity towards each other, fear and the burdens of the past to play like a team, with Porter also learning some lessons along the way.
This is one of those inspirational, teen-aimed movies that it's hard to dislike but easy to forget about. Perhaps the greatest compliment that you could pay 'Gridiron Gang' is that it would make you want to see the 1993 Emmy award-winning documentary on which it is based. Its biggest failing is that by resorting to the play book of sporting movie clichés it fails to distinguish itself in the genre. You know how it's going to turn out before the first whistle is even blown.
While some of The Rock's dialogue lands like a quarterback on a dozen eggs, he remains an endearing screen colossus and his cred is much enhanced by young actors who bring out the best in their brush-stroked characters and the fact that The Rock was a college football star himself. The football scenes are well-filmed and, whatever the blurring of fact and fiction, there's no doubt that it serves a younger audience far better than much of the dross that's thrown at them every week.
It's no 'Friday Night Lights', though.