This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
Michael Caine stars here as a seventies London gangster returning home to throw Alf Roberts off a multi-story car park, then plays basketball for a bit. Hang on. That doesn’t seem right. Sorry, it’s been a few days since I saw the film. My memory goes a little in my dotage.
Samuel L. Jackson stars as the new coach of a struggling high school basketball team, the Richmond Oilers. By instigating a strict training regime, contractually obligating his players to show up and pass classes and throwing Alf Roberts from a multi-story car park, Coach Carter soon turns round the fortunes of the Oilers. There’s resistance from some of the existing players, Carter’s hard working ethos apparently not sitting well with the ghetto lives that most of the impoverished kids find themselves leading.
Carter has their best interests at heart of course, trying to give them the chance of a better life by ensuring their hoped for college sports scholarships will allow a viable career at the end of it. Controversial stuff, for some reason, but far be it from us to apply conventional logic to the American high school system. You can probably imagine all of the life affirming positive messages this film has well enough by yourself.
Which isn’t to say it’s a bad film. It’s not blowing you away with wildly novel narratives and you’ll more than likely have seen this film twelve times before, albeit arranged slightly differently with different actors. That’s not to say that Coach Carter does ‘it’ worse than any of them, whatever ‘it’ is. If nothing else it reminds us of how much fun it is to watch Sam Jackson ply his trade when he isn’t prancing around waving a purple light saber. Playing the role somewhat similarly to Pulp Fiction’s Jules Winnfield, he’s in full on authoritarian wise cracking bad ass mode. While this is hugely entertaining, it does seem wrong to see the kiddywinks even entertaining the notion of backchatting him. Braver men than I.
The students Carter takes under his wing are a mixed bunch, ranging from angry young men already involved in gang crime, drug pushing and Alf Roberts pushing to angry young men who happen to be Carter’s son. Each of the young actors do no damage to their reputations at all, their concerns never seeming overwrought or melodramatic.
I could go on, but I’m not sure I’d be adding anything of use. It’s a nice, largely true story that has the usual points of teenage drama, strong performances all round and a positive message told so well it doesn’t irritate even the most cynical members of an audience, such as me. There’s certainly far worse things in this world one could be subjected to than Coach Carter.