Writeen by Samantha Ofole-Prince
Now fully comfortable in a role that‘s certainly no stretch for him, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson seems to have found his screen niche in this heartwarming and uplifting tale of redemption and rehabilitation. He plays Sean Porter, a probation officer at Camp Kilpatrick who creates a high-school-level football team from a bunch of unruly teenage inmates as a means of teaching them self-respect and social responsibility.
As a teenager, Porter overcame his own personal problems to become a first-rate high-school football player and wants to apply the same lessons he learned through discipline and team spirit to this group of juveniles. Once he realizes that the facility provides nothing more than a revolving door for gang violence and a pathway to serving time in adult prisons, he is determined to shape up the inhabitants made up of gang members, killers and thieves into model citizens.
Organizing a football team called ‘The Mustangs’, he handpicks several teenagers to take part in what he coins as ‘The Mustang Challenge,’ but with everyone from camp officials to the teenager youths against his idea and no local high schools to compete against, the real challenge because a much tougher task than he initially anticipated.
Based on a true story, "The Gridiron Gang" is reminiscent of sporting flicks like "Remember the Titians," "Glory Road" and "Radio" and covers no new ground in its chosen topic. It’s a tad melodramatic and a half hour too long, but is very effective as an inspirational flick where the juveniles are a cross section of society’s creeds and culture.
Rapper Xhzibit is convincing as Rock’s co-worker and coach Malcolm Moore, and other memorable characters include Bug (Brandon Smith), a skinny gawky teenage with an innocent demeanor who earned his sentence by stabbing an elderly lady for her purse.
The movie’s opening narration, which states that seventy-five percent of the juvenile prisoners who are released either return to prison or are killed on the streets offers startling statistics, and serves as a grim reminder of the continuous and cyclical problems within many inner city neighborhoods.