• Release Date : January 14, 2005
  • Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Rob Brown, Channing Tatum, Rick Gonzalez, Ashanti
  • Director: Thomas Carter

Hollywood makes sports films better than anyone else. This is something that has been proven again and again and again. I believe I have mentioned this in my reviews of sports film on more than one occasion. Coach Carter is another testimony to that very fact. Based on the life of a dedicated Basketball coach of the Richmond High School, Ken Carter (Samuel L Jackson), this is a cracking film about one man’s mission to help save kids who he believes otherwise will be lost to a time and setting that we all know too well. He sets out to bring the kids back in the fold using the one thing that they all crave for together, Basketball.

Ken Carter takes up the job of coaching the Richmond High Basketball team and immediately understands that nothing has changed since he was a student there himself. Having done well for himself in life, he realizes the importance of academia and makes his players sign contracts that would force them to be just as much academically inclined as they are towards the sport. Offcourse the kids hate the idea and when Carter locks the gym halfway through the season and forces the kids back to their classes so that they could get their grades and attendances up, he faces an unprecedented backlash from the town folks. The fact that his team was having the best season in years before the lockdown only makes the matter that much more complicated. What happens next forms the crux of the narrative.

I first watched this film when I was in college and didn’t even have a blog. I watched this film a couple of times a year ever since and even today, I enjoy it just as much as I did when I watched it for the first time. My blood still pumps in the thrilling sports action sequences. My eyes get moist at the scene when the kids finally understand what Carter was trying to do with them and warm up to him. I still feel the same pleasure seeing the boys bond that I did when I watched it for the first time. That’s the power of a sports film when you are willing to invest in the basic subject and put in your whole weight behind it.

Coach Carter doesn’t have any major subplots except one involving a kid called Timo Cruz (Rick Gonzalez). Timo gets thrown out of the team on the first day of Carter’s job when he tries to assault him. He then gets back on the team after breaking his back for the man with an unprecedented amount of exercises that Carter gives him as his re-entry fees. He does exceptionally well on the team but when Carter locks up the gym, he has another major fallout with him. Soon something happens that brings him back to Carter and the manner in which he finally warms up to him is probably one of the most emotionally rewarding scenes of the film.

One thing that Hollywood does great with its sports films is the amount of physicality that the actors bring to the sports action. Even the lowly rated and not so good sports films have thoroughly satisfying and believable sports action. I have raised this as a major issue with Bollywood sports films over the years. Every time I see a Hollywood sports film, it just becomes that much more evident.

Coach Carter boasts of some scintillating basketball action. The kind of physicality that the actors bring to the table is unbelievable. When you see the film, chances are you will get a feeling very close to the real deal here. I was especially impressed by the basketball maneuvering of Robert Ri’chard who plays Damien Carter, Ken Carter’s son and one of the key players of the team. Every actor essays his part naturally and gives you no reason to believe that they are actors. They are equally great at the game. The fact that most of them did their own bits helped the cinematographer to get some terrific shots on on-field action.

Having said all that, this is a Samuel L. Jackson film. He is present in almost every scene of the film and he justifies his presence with a terrific act. Be it Carter’s commanding mannerism, his concern for the well being of the kids and those limited but highly emotionally potent moments, Jackson scores big in every one of them. What I loved most about his act was the amount of realism and grit that he brings to the table. One feels the urgency and frustration of the man as he tries his best to do what he believes is best for the kids but is time and again brought down by the people of the town who cannot relate with his concern and have accepted a pre-defined fate for the kids. This undercurrent adds a lot to the film.

Coach Carter is one of my favorite sports films. It is about a sport that I don’t like that much and even then it blew me away. A terrific Samuel L. Jackson, great supporting actors including Channing Tatum and some terrific sports action makes this one of the most endlessly watchable films. Add to that a healthy dose of drama and some really heartwarming moments between a tough man and even tougher- to- crack kids and you have a delightful film at hands.

Rating : 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)   




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