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With: Josh Lucas, Derek Luke, Austin Nichols, Mehcad Brooks, Alphonso McAuley, Damaine Radcliff, Al Shearer, Sam Jones III, Schin A.S. Kerr, Kip Weeks, Mitch Eakins, Alejandro Hernandez, James Olivard, Jon Voight, Evan Jones, Red West, Emily Descanel, Tatyana Ali
Written by: Christopher Cleveland, Bettina Gilois
Directed by: James Gartner
MPAA Rating: PG for racial issues including violence and epithets, and mild language
Running Time: 117
Date: 01/13/2006

Glory Road (2006)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Big Swish

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

"Showboating is nothing but insecurity," coach Don Haskins (Josh Lucas) tells his team. Great players, he says, make "simple, easy, basic plays."

His team, the 1965-66 Texas Western Miners, eventually ignores this advice and uses their own unique style. But what's remarkable about Jerry Bruckheimer's new Glory Road is that it manages to find a happy medium between these two extremes.

Glory Road tells the true story of Haskins and his college ball team, the first to use an all-African American starting lineup. Bruckheimer drags out all the old sports movie nuggets, or at least fits the true elements into the old formula. Haskins comes from coaching girl's basketball and must live in the dormitory on the cash-poor Texas Western campus. Each player goes through little dramas such as girl troubles, medical troubles, or plain old confidence troubles. The coach always whips up little pep talks even when his own courage flags.

Somehow, Bruckheimer keeps the sentimentality to a minimum and keeps his story moving at a very nice clip: four fast quarters and a halftime. For the record, Bruckheimer has hired a brand new, Tony Scott-like director named James Gartner who comes from TV commercials, but we all know who the real author is.

Surprisingly, Bruckheimer also bucks the current jumpy/choppy action trend and shoots clean, fast and exciting basketball games. The movement never confuses; we're always clear who has the ball and what's going on. Veteran editor John Wright knows action; he has worked with Sam Peckinpah (Convoy) and John Woo (Broken Arrow).

As for the team, Glory Road brings out Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher) to portray the star player Bobby Joe Hill, and a band of rookies both fresh and vaguely familiar (both actors and basketball players) make up the rest. They all have interesting faces, both black and white, and they manage to convey pages of material in a relatively short amount of time. A heavily made-up Jon Voight also appears as Adolph Rupp, coach of the champion Kentucky Wildcats.

Within the film's slick, undemanding sheen, however, Bruckheimer's depictions of the team's experiences with racism come across as shockingly explosive. This is a film full of anger and shame without smacking of self-importance or superiority.

Ultimately, though there have been a lot of movies like it (notably Blue Chips), the film's energetic telling of one of the world's greatest sports stories deserves mention next to Hoosiers (1986) as one of the most memorable basketball movies.

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