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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
Gridiron Gang (2006)

"Everybody listen up. The gridiron is a football field. On the gridiron, we do it my way, not your way. Your way got you here. Whatever gang you claim, whatever hood you're from, this is your hood now."
- Sean Porter (Dwayne Johnson)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: January 17, 2007

Stars: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
Other Stars: Xzibit, Kevin Dunn, Leon Rippy, Jade Yorker, Michael J. Pagan
Director: Phil Joanou

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (some startling scenes of violence, mature thematic material, language)
Run Time: 02h:05m:37s
Release Date: January 16, 2007
UPC: 043396148468
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ CC+B- B+

DVD Review

With the NFL playoffs in full swing right now, there's no better time to sit down to a football saga. Enter Sony's DVD release of 2006's Gridiron Gang, the latest vehicle for wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. While it's a valiant effort from this larger-than-life action star and we get a few new wrinkles, this is still mostly the same old mass-appeal fluff for those who love material like Remember the Titans and Invincible.

The Rock stars as Sean Porter, the supervisor at Camp Kilpatrick, a juvenile detention center whose newest resident is Willie (Jade Yorker). This kid has just killed his mother's abusive boyfriend, and his cousin, former Camp Kilpatrick resident Roger Weathers (Michael J. Pagan), is killed following his release. Willie arrives just in time to be a part of the new football team that Porter and Malcolm Moore (Xzibit) have formed as a way to teach the kids to work together and grow into decent men. Despite complaints from the bureaucracy, Porter's team soldiers on, showing nothing but determination and a ton of heart along the way.

It's hard to believe the man behind this fluff piece is director Phil Joanou, helmer of the great documentary U2: Rattle and Hum. Despite the ho-hum story, Joanou does have a nice visual touch, breathing a bit of life into the proceedings at times when it's most needed. He does a great job with the game sequences, in particular, capturing the intensities of football like few filmmakers have before. From close-ups of bone-jarring hits to sharp cutting of game-deciding plays, Joanou gives the familiar "sports movie look" a jolt that makes this worth sitting through.

Of course, this wouldn't be a football movie without scene after scene of practice and training action. There's the clichéd scrimmage game where the team we're rooting for gets crushed in all facets of play. Every sports movie also lends at least slightly more screen time to one of the players, and in this case it's Willie. Newcomer Jade Yorker does a nice job being the focal point, but he's still never allowed to truly let loose, as this is The Rock's movie through and through. If Joanou and company could have just defied conventions in regards to this aspect, the forced emotional tugging might have been more effective. A bit less sappiness and some more grit and dark storylines are what this genre needs, and unfortunately, it doesn't get that here.

Despite this being a mostly forgettable genre piece, there are enough attempts to overcome such tired, overwrought material. This keeps things feeling at least somewhat original, and it's also The Rock's best performance since the underrated The Rundown. He does an admirable job carrying most of the story, and even seems willing to take a back seat to some of the other actors at times, despite the feeling that Joanou and the screenplay are looking for more out of just him. The future continues to look bright for The Rock, and, while he may not branch out much further into more dramatic roles than this, he's shown us that he just might be able to pull somewhat demanding characters if given the chance. Perhaps we'll eventually look back and see this as a turning point in his career.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: While also available in an anamorphic widescreen release, the pan-and-scan version was sent for review. For such a recent Hollywood film, I expected far less grain and print flaws than are evident. Still, the images are nice and crisply detailed, with a great deal of sharpness. Shadow and contrast levels are well-handled, while the overall color scheme is pleasing rendered.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is devoid of the many booming, crunching sounds that usually accompany violent tackles in football movies. The problem lies in Trevor Rabin's overbearing score, which often drowns out the action by filling the soundfield. There are still some intense scenes that benefit from aggressive bass, though, and the dialogue is always easy to understand.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring Stomp the Yard, Ghost Rider, Crossover, The Messengers, Facing the Giants, The Covenant, Rudy, Coming to Blu-Ray
15 Deleted Scenes
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Writer Jeff Maguire and director Phil Joanou.
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Multi-Angle Football Scene
Extras Review: An impressive extras collection includes an audio commentary track by writer Jeff Maguire and director Phil Joanou. They talk mostly about the guts of the film, from the casting of The Rock and company, to the character development that took place during the shoot. There's quite a bit of movie-related technical jargon, but these guys are lively enough to keep things interesting.

Fifteen deleted scenes last just over 23 minutes and result in the audience having a better understanding for many of the characters, especially the football players. We then go to the six-minute featurette, Gridiron Gang: Football Training, which looks at the actual training camp that the actors went through to prepare for the football sequences.

The focus shifts to the director in the four-minute Phil Joanou Profile. Unfortunately, there isn't any footage from his earlier films, but we do learn why he decided to tackle Gridiron Gang. The Rock Takes the Field is four minutes of the filming of the scene with Sean Porter challenging Willie to a football drill.

Things finish up with some previews and a "Multi-Angle Football Scene" that looks at five sequences from the film using five different camera angles.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Football fans will more than get their fix of their favorite sport in this, The Rock's latest vehicle. It won't make believers out of fringe sports movie fan, though, but it is a film that doesn't try and do more than necessary to appeal to its base. Sony's disc has decent, unspectacular audio and video, and some interesting supplements that are worth your time.


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