Sunday 14 December 2008

The Program (1993) - ickleReview (HD)

Tame sports movie about the American football program at a fictional east-coast college, Eastern State University (shot on location at the University of South Carolina and Duke University). James Caan plays the head coach whose job has come under pressure after a number of under-performing seasons in which his team have failed to reach a bowl game. He recruits a freshman tailback, Darnell Jefferson (Omar Epps), and has a few strong returning players including a Heisman Trophy candidate, Joe Kane (Craig Sheffer), at quarterback and trash-talking Alvin Mack (Duane Davis) at linebacker. Halle Berry plays Jefferson's tutor, Autumn Haley, who showed him around the college when he was being recruited. Darnell wants her to be his girlfriend but Autumn is already in a relationship with the existing tailback, Ray Griffen (J. Leon Pridgen II), so Darnell is not only competing for the same starting position but also the same girl. Joe Kane's love interest is Camille Shafer (Kristy Swanson), an injured tennis player who claims she doesn't date football players.

The film gives an insight into the dramas of college football: player recruitment, the booster club, steroid abuse, athletes' poor academic performance, Heisman candidacy, positional rivalry; but the writing is limp and the acting often second-rate. Some of the on-field action is quite well shot but is never really dramatic and there isn't much of it; most of the interest comes from off-the-field issues. The opening sequence is ridiculously shot in unrealistic darkness with heavy rain and deep puddles (similar to The Last Boy Scout).

Nugget: cardboard cut-out characters, clich├ęd scenarios, and limp, unremarkable acting drop this movie below .500. If it were a college football team, it would be lucky to get a bowl bid. Only really suitable for those with an interest in college football, but it's still watchable. One way to keep yourself entertained is to spot a number of continuity goofs.

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