The Program has many of the typical cliches found in sports movies but portrays the characters well as real people in fairly realistic situations. Unfortunately, this movie has a permanent connection to a real life tragedy as some audience viewer decided to replicate the movie’s infamous scene where young men lay down on the median of a busy road to prove their courage and “have fun”.
James Caan has the main role as Coach Sam Winters. He looks out for his players and supports them even under questionable circumstances. Craig Sheffer plays quarterback Joe Kane, a Heisman trophy hopeful who provides the fearless leadership for his team. Kristy Swanson plays love interest Camille and Omar Epps does a good job portraying Darnell Jefferson, a confident rookie tailback recruited by Coach Winters. Autumn Haley, played by the beautiful Halle Berry, shows Jefferson around the campus as they develop a relationship.
The movie opens with last year’s season ending loss then proceeds with the rebuilding of the football program. The story allows for the characters’ feelings and action to reach the audience, though some characters could have had more line. The story basically sways between the football games and what occurs in the characters’ lives.
This movie has some surprising comic scenes with some emotional moments in the ‘second half’ of the movie. Aspects of drug use, alcohol abuse, and the importance of a college education appear but are not expanded because of the time-restricted story.
The story has an abrupt ending that may leave you disappointed, but it works well considering the large number of characters. Some of the characters’ problems are resolved too quickly to be realistic, but at least the results reflect the action of the characters.
Director David S. Ward does an adequate job filming the picture using the “helmet cam” technique in tense situations (impressive if you haven’t seen this techniques on football games yet). Ward got a huge wave of bodies filling the stadium for the first game but then reverts back to filming smaller sections of fans for the rest of the time.
The games have all the trash talking, hard hitting action elements, plus some choice lines like “Kill ‘em all and let the paramedics sort ‘em out”. Good performances from the appealing stars and a fairly realistic portrayal of college football. Recommended with reservations (**) and rated R for language.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler