Dir: James Gartner. US. 2006. 115mins.
Playing out like Remember The Titans for basketball fans,Glory Road is yet another would-beinspirational true story which follows Hollywood sports-movie conventions somechanically that it feels more generic than stirring.
Opening on January13 in the US, the same weekend that the hoops-themed Samuel L Jackson feature Coach Carterdid last year, the film will appeal to sports enthusiasts and family audienceswho appreciate the combination of basketball action and positive messages aboutracial tolerance. But without a Jackson or a DenzelWashington (who was in Remember TheTitans) in the lead, this tale of the first college national champion tostart five African-Americans may struggle to match Coach Carter's $67m, although it should be a reliable ancillaryperformer.
Oversees, Glory Road will probably find as cool areception as most American sports films do (88% of Coach Carter's $77m worldwide gross came from the US; for Remember The Titans, 85% of the $136.7mglobal returns were made Stateside).
In the mid-1960s,former high-school girls basketball coach Don Haskins (Josh Lucas) accepts anoffer to coach the lowly Texas Western Miners men's team. Unhappy with the meagre white prospects available to him, he decides to dowhat was unthinkable at the time: recruit black players. In a country that wasstill deeply segregated, Haskins's bold move has nothing to do with politicalcorrectness - he simply wants the best athletes he can get.
The feature debutfrom commercials director James Gartner, GloryRoad follows the Miners' fateful season as white and black players learn towork together, eventually winning an unlikely national championship against theheavily favoured University of Kentucky Wildcats.
Producer JerryBruckheimer, who was also behind RememberThe Titans, prefers sports films that rouse theaudience both through the on-the-field heroics and the characters' confrontingracial bigotry in their real lives.
But while Glory Road recounts a turning point inAmerican sports history - the moment when black athletes demonstrated they werejust as capable as their white counterparts - the screenplay reduces theparticipants to overly familiar archetypes. Although Josh Lucas provides thenecessary fire for his role, he can't do much with Haskins's character, whichhas been written no differently from dozens of other gruff, tough-lovecinematic coaches.
Likewise, whetherblack or white, each Miner player is allowed only one character trait, be it smooth-talkingladies man, awkward oaf or funny short guy. As a result, this begrudginglyintegrated team never feels like a group of compelling personalities but rathera collection of cyphers whomust initially dislike one another before inevitably bonding when the scriptcalls for it.
As a director,Gartner doles out the predictable story beats without much ingenuity. Notsurprisingly, the film largely consists of sports montages, scenes ofnarrow-minded white fans ridiculing or trying to harm Haskins' black players,and occasional interludes where our heroes visit with their adoring girlfriendsor wives who believe in them no matter what.
Of course, anunremarkable sports movie can still be redeemed by the thrill of the thirdact's big game, yet even here there is too little excitement. Like composerTrevor Rabin's competent score, Gartner's frantic direction punches all theright emotional buttons - but since the Miners and their story haven't beenmemorably dramatised, their victory plays out as justone more cliche.
Walt Disney Pictures
Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Buena Vista Pictures
Buena Vista International
Jeffrey L Kimball
Schin AS Kerr
Sam Jones III