When Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) is asked to coach the basketball team at his former high school, Richmond High Oilers, he sets the bar high for its rebellious members. He makes the team sign a contract, that also promises scholastic achievement. The team comprises a bunch of tough rebels who learn the hard way that playing in the team is a right they need to earn. Kenyon Stone (Ron Brown) is overwhelmed by the fact his girlfriend Kyra (Ashanti) is pregnant; Timo Cruz (Rick Gonzales) does shady deals for his hood-cousin and Worm (Antwon Tanner) doesn't take life at all seriously. And Carter's own son Damien (Robert Ri'chard) leaves his top school, in order to be coached by his father.
Review by Louise Keller:
Samuel L. Jackson is Ken Carter, sports-store owner and basketball coach to a group of kids in a tough neighbourhood. He drives a blue Mercedes, wears well-cut suits and ties and carries his head high. He certainly doesn't look like a coach. And the team is totally unprepared for his unorthodox methods. A tough task-master, not only does he push physical training to the limits, but also places demands on the team that are outside the sport. They are required to sign a contract promising scholastic achievement, consistent attendance in class, and dress code of a tie on game day. He demands respect, and offers respect in return. Any lapse in punctuality or attitude requires hundreds of push-ups, in order to be able to play. The team quickly catches on that if they want to play, it is a right they need to earn.
An uplifting story about respect, choices and determination, Coach Carter is a highly engaging film that takes us far beyond the basketball court. According to Carter, winning is not enough; he wants the boys to reach their full potential, and have the opportunity of a better life - based on a true story. When students' grades are not up to scratch, Carter incurs the wrath of the school and the town by padlocking the gym and cancelling the games. No one, including the school principal (Denise Dowse), is prepared for Carter's unwavering commitment to discipline both in the gym and the classroom.
Jackson stands tall as the immaculately groomed Carter, for whom this is a labour of love. When his son Damian (Robert Ri'chard) wants to quit his expensive private school and join his father's team, he leaves the decision to him, as long as he is prepared to meet with consequences. Emotionally we get involved with everyone - from Carter to the members of the team. Rob Brown's Kenyon Stone has to make some serious decisions with pregnant girlfriend Kyra (Ashanti) on his arm; Antwon Tanner's rebellions Worm, and Rick Gonzales' Timo Cruz, who hangs about with the wrong crowd are terrific and the script is never trite.
There are plenty of highs, as the team scores the impossible points, but none are as moving as the relationship between Carter and his team, as they make life-changing decisions. I'm not a basketball fan, but Coach Carter had me on the edge of my seat in all the thrilling game sequences, plus my tears were a clear indicator of what a moving experience it had been.
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COACH CARTER (M)
CAST: Samuel L. Jackson, Rob Brown, Robert Ri'chard, Rick Gonzales, Nana Gbewonyo, Antwon Tanner
PRODUCER: David Gale, Brian Robbins, Michael Tollin
DIRECTOR: Thomas Carter
SCRIPT: Marck Scwan, John Gatins
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Sharon Meir
EDITOR: Peter Berger, Peter E. Berger
MUSIC: Trevor Rabin
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Carlos Barbosa
RUNNING TIME: 136 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 26, 2006