This slightly schematic sports doc follows the efforts of Coach Bill Courtney to turn the impoverished black students of Manassas High School in Memphis, Tennessee into a lean, mean, football-playing machine and offer them inspiring life lessons. This is American football, of course, which means the pitch-side scenes will baffle all but the most committed Yankophile. But luckily directors Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin hold focus on the characters, from the committed, passionate (if camera-conscious) coach to his star players, loveable brick outhouse OC, scrappy smart kid Money and ex-con anger-management nightmare Chavis. Their story has surely been manhandled for the big screen, and some of the more manipulative ‘feel good now!’ moments don’t convince. But there’s an uplifting story here about poverty and privilege, and what it means to take responsibility for one’s life. Despite the filmmakers’ best efforts, ‘Undefeated’ is no ‘Hoop Dreams’, but it’s sturdily built and worthwhile.
Friday August 3 2012
Daniel Lindsay, TJ Martin