Ken Carter (Jackson) is an unorthodox high-school basketball coach, but while his methods raise eyebrows, the results can't be argued with. However, when Carter benches his entire team after discovering how abysmal their grades are, controversy is stirred...
"Formulaic!" is not a word you often see screaming at you from movie posters. It is, however, an apt – and almost entirely non-disparaging – description of this hardworking sports flick that finds Samuel L. Jackson in feisty bread-and-butter mode as a hard-ass high-school basketball coach who moulds his ramshackle team of ghetto toughs into a finely-tuned winning machine.
It's join-the-dots fare but, as any mad scientist will tell you, formulae can yield surprising results. There's added zip here in that Carter's overriding ambition is not for his kids to win the pennant (or whatever it is American high school basketball teams compete for) but to keep them out of prison, insisting they dress smart and maintain academic grades necessary for college admission.
There'll be no surprises if you've seen Hoosiers or, indeed, any other sports movie (and there won't be many if you haven't, to be honest). But it's a good story, well told, the on-court action is thrilling and authentic and, let's face it, you'd pay to watch Sam Jackson play a hard-ass clockmaker, let alone a hard-ass high-school basketball coach who turns boys into men with words of wisdom, a necktie and a big old padlock.
On paper a routine sports yarn. On screen, thanks to Jackson refusing to phone it in, far more satisfying than you might expect.
Reviewed by Simon Braund