Movie Review by Neils Hesse
Starring: Samuel L Jackson, Robert Ri’chard, Rob Brown, Debbi Morgan, Ashanti
Director: Thomas Carter
Coach Ken Carter (Samuel L Jackson) is not your average basketball coach. With a background as a star player in college basketball and a passionate interest in his players’ welfare on and off the courts, he is much more than meets the eye. He is offered a part time job to coach at his old school Richmond High and he eventually accepts the position. On meeting his basketball team for the first time he lays down his terms, which requires each of the players to sign a contract stating that they will keep their school work up to a specified average grade or else they will lose the privilege of playing basketball on his team. All the players sign up with the assumption that it’s all just some gimmick that he would probably never enforce.
After some gruelling training, his team start winning every game that they play and Carter soon becomes a hero in the community. He decides to check up on his players’ grades as per their agreement and much to his disappointment he discovers that some of them are not keeping their grades up. In response to this he cancels their upcoming championship game, as well as all training and locks the basketball court. The whole community protest against his decision and he actually starts to receive threats but he still doggedly sticks to his guns. The players are now faced with the dilemma of either fulfilling their agreements or giving up their chance of glory in the state championships.
It may all sound a bit far fetched but believe it or not it is based on a true story. The director has done a good job at making a movie that is targeted at a teenage audience, but with Samuel L Jackson in the lead role it also has a lot of appeal for an older audience. The film tackles the issues of sport over education and for the USA this is a big issue as more and more kids swap one for the other but as far as Coach Carter is concerned, he simply wants them to have both. Yes, it is an MTV Films co-production and yes, it is directed by the same man who did the cute mixed race love story SAVE THE LAST DANCE, but this has more of a dramatic punch to it.
Samuel L Jackson does a great job as the stubborn but well meaning coach who stands up to an entire community for his principles and wins them over. He perfectly captures the integrity and forceful nature of his character enabling the audience to appreciate what he is going through and why he is doing it. He keeps the movie from drifting too much into teenage melodrama territory.
A very entertaining movie that is perhaps a bit on the long side but still worth seeing.