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Friday Night Lights (2004)

Hope comes alive on Friday nights.

Rating: 4/10

Running Time: 117 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12a

‘Friday Night Lights’ is set in the 1980s, which – when you think about it – is quite appropriate given that it centres around a sport so heavily featuring brightly-coloured tights and over-sized shoulder pads. Yup, that’s right – this is Hollywood’s latest attempt at tackling (arf!) American football, and you can be sure that no sporting cliché will be left unfumbled by the time the two hours are up.

Based on the H.G. Bissinger book which chronicled the true-life 1988 season of Texan High School team the Permian Panthers, this is the sort of sports movie where you can guess the outcome of pretty much every event a good ten minutes before it actually happens. From its use of deep meaningful music and pensive bulgy-eyed glances to accompany the most bland of events (including, at one point, a coin toss) to the countless heartfelt monologues belched out by team coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton), you can bet there’s nothing in here that you won’t have seen before.

Aside from Thornton, the cast includes Lucas Black as team quarter-back Mike Winchell, Garrett Hedlund as troubled runner Don Billingsley, and Derek Luke as star man Boobie Miles who – despite the daft name – fancies himself a bit. Luke made a marvellous first impression on his big-screen debut three years ago in ‘Antwone Fisher’, but since then he’s kept his appearances for stultifying dross like ‘Biker Boyz’ and ‘Spartan’. Here, as the mugging and cringe-inducingly over-the-top Miles, he continues that slide at an alarming rate of knots (I should probably also add that asking us to accept ANY of these blatant twenty-somethings as High Schoolers really is pushing things a bit).

If it was up to me, there’d be a Government ban on any post-1990 sports flick featuring a slo-mo montage of team successes put to stirring music or cheese-fuelled up-and-at-em speeches made by men in tracksuits. Sadly though, The Rundown director Peter Berg delivers such elements in spades, and his on-field sequences aren’t much better. During match-time, he often forgets to let us in on such basic information as what the score is and how long is left to be played, with the result that if you’re not big on American football you’re going to find it nigh-on impossible to work out what’s going on.

Despite Berg’s desperation to prove to us just how important the team’s fortunes were to the people of the town (some of the pressure they put on coach Gaines is at-times quite remarkable), I was left feeling cold and uninvolved. Apparently, this is a side of things that the book gets spot-on – but, after sitting through the movie, the only conclusion I could come to about the townsfolk was that they perhaps just needed to get out more.

It's Got: Gruff-voiced country crooner Tim McGraw taking a break from ill-advised hip-hop collaborations for just long enough to make a passable acting debut.

It Needs: The full-time whistle.


This American Football yarn contains lots of gutsy manly conversations about the apparent philosophies behind winning and losing, but the only real loser here is the viewer.