In Brief: Brian Banks’ real life story scores a touchdown.
Brian Banks had a very bright future. College fame for sure and probably a career in the National Football League. That was the opinion of scouts who had no doubt that Banks was going to end up doing very, very well.
Life — unfortunately for Banks — had other plans.
In 2002 while at summer school between his junior and senior years of high school Banks was accused of raping a student. He was tried as an adult and sentenced to six-years in prison and five-years of very intense, and very restrictive parole.
Plus, Banks had to register as a sex offender.
Banks was innocent. Poor, black and not all that well-versed in the nation’s often unfair legal system, and given — he says — very bad advice from a public defender, Banks ended up jailed.
Bye, bye football and the potential of a life of fame and luxury.
Unfortunately, a lot of the marketing for the film deals with football so a lot of people are expecting a football movie. While this is about a football player, and a few football shots are needed, director Tom Shadyac and writer Doug Atchison rightfully, and righteously focus on the railroading of a human being by a system that doesn’t listen and often doesn’t care.
Banks is black, automatically guilty and just another number.
Brian Banks picks up Banks’ story while he’s on parole and his story unfolds in flashbacks and in real time. Aldis Hodge from TV’s City on a Hill and the movie A Good Day to Die Hard, plays Banks. With makeup and some good CGI, Shadyac manages to almost make him look like a teenager in those all-critical high school scenes.
Most of the time, however, the totally buff Hodge looks like the formidable linebacker that Banks could have become if given a chance. Along with some terrific acting from Hodge, Greg Kinnear — who plays Justin Brooks of the California Innocence Project — and their costars, it is the loss of a chance at a better life that drives the movie.
Banks’ loss and his solo, almost superhuman effort to clear his name is a riveting story.
In real life Banks was single-minded. That’s how Hodge plays him. He knew he did nothing wrong other than behave like a typical teen. Yet, the legal system — and his own representation — treated him as if he was guilty from the outset. Banks’ quest to get exonerated was made even more difficult by the $1.6 million settlement given to his accuser and her mother.
This kind of movie is a real change of pace for Shadyac. His career is packed with simple — and often stupid — comedy like Bruce Almighty, Evan Almighty and the first Ace Ventura flick.
Banks’ struggle and his frustration with the system is done perfectly by Shadyac and Atchison. The script is matter-of-fact. It’s not pushy nor overly political. They assume we already know the system is biased against a Brian Banks and that fact doesn’t need to be beaten to death.
To show the bias of the courts and the poor representation of legal council, the two men simply tell Banks’ story. There’s no need to read between the lines, it’s all there. The all there — by the way — is a solid movie that, in the end, shows how the ultra positive Banks was able to take all that misery and turn it into a life that is now, full of hope and very positive.
Brian Banks got hosed in real life but his story and this movie scores a touchdown.
Director: Tom Shadyac
Stars: Aldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, Sherri Shepherd, Melanie Liburd, Tiffany Dupont, Matt Battaglia, Xosha Roquemore
Brian Banks real life story isn’t just about football. It’s about a broken system and how a very positive man was finally able to get the system to right itself and him. Give Brian Banks a high-five and a Friday Flicks with Gary 4 out of 5 on the 0 to 5 scale.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.