The Express Directed by: Gary Fleder Cast: Rob Brown, Dennis Quaid, Omar Benson Miller Time: 2 hrs 5 mins Rating: PG
Plot: The story of Ernie Davis, (Brown), the first African-American football player to win the Heisman Trophy. A discriminated halfback at Syracuse University, Davis tackled racial differences on and off the field whether it was from prejudiced referees and teammates, segregated hotels and businesses, or the entire state of Texas.
Who’s It For? The obvious bid is for football fans, but the power of this true story widens its audience to anyone who is willing to listen.
Expectations: Sports films tend to be cinematic MVPs, making true stories seem like the most formulaic kind of thing. But once we disregard the Hollywood-injected factors like predictability, the stories they tell are usually able to stand on their own.
Actors: Rob Brown as Ernie Davis: Even at a younger age in Finding Forrester, Brown has proven himself to be a strong lead. Here, he plays the character with a kept composure, marked by a stability that effectively contrasts the racial dissonance screaming in his ear. Brown’s greatest feat, however, is a performance that feels genuine to Davis. Score: 6
Dennis Quaid as Coach Schwartzwalder: Outside of playing a character with complex racial prejudices, Quaid’s vanilla performance isn’t particularly memorable. He barks at (and subsequently inspires) his players like nearly every other coach Hollywood has told us about. Score: 4
Omar Benson Miller as Jack “JB” Buckley: Two weeks ago, we saw Miller play a character of similar friendliness in the war movie Miracle At St. Anna. Unlike that film, this story doesn’t credit him as anything outside of a typical sidekick, despite his large contribution to the film’s sense of humor. Score: 5
Talking: At certain times, The Express puts too much cheese into its motivational speeches. More distinctive to the dialogue is the spare usage of the N-word, which, although sadly legitimate to its time, is still unwelcome and increases the heaviness of the strong PG-rating. Score: 5
Sights & Sounds: The film is not without sports movies clichés, such as excessive slow motion, and a score that milks the drama of every possible situation. More so than others (such as in We Are Marshall) the film’s football footage is quite exciting, possibly due to the usage of the shakicam technique. Score: 6
OVERALL The Express isn’t able to surpass any of its predecessors of the genre, but its story is more effective than others. Curiously, the very end of the credits state: “a number of events are fictionalized”. This comes as a surprise, as the story feels like it lacks the overt indulgence that is a common foul from even the most championed sports movies, like Rudy. Whether or not certain scenarios are fictionalized, at least The Express sustains a swift rate of believability.