HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

HURRICANE SEASON -- DVD review by porfle

Neither an overly sappy heart-tugger nor an exercise in slick hiphop cinema, HURRICANE SEASON (2009) is just a good old-fashioned inspirational sports story about some underdogs who overcame adversity with the help of a dedicated coach. Based on a true story, the film does credit to its subject by treating it in a restrained and realistic fashion.

The always watchable Forest Whitaker plays Al Collins, a highly-respected basketball coach at John Ehret High in New Orleans. The hopes that he and his team have for a winning season are dashed by Hurricane Katrina, which ravages the school and profoundly disrupts their lives. Fighting to keep the team together, Collins recruits players from rival schools that have shut down and offers former championship-winning Coach Simmons (Isaiah Washington, "Grey's Anatomy", GHOST SHIP), now unemployed, a job as his assistant. With heated rivalries erupting within the newly-formed team, Collins must find a way to inspire them to work as a unified force with the potential to overcome the odds and go to the state finals.

Refreshingly free of the usual contrived situations and hokey interpersonal conflicts, HURRICANE SEASON explores its premise in a thoughtful manner that remains believable throughout. The devastation of the hurricane is well-conveyed without trying to turn the sequence into a mini-disaster flick, and we see its overwhelming effect on the characters in ways that we can empathize with and relate to.

The conflicts between the players are similarly realistic and non-sensationalized, with even the most troublesome members of the team given understandable motivations for their actions. Particularly effective is Robbie Jones ("One Tree Hill") as Brian, whose tendency to showboat at the expense of the team is due to the unreasonable demands placed on him by his father (Courtney B. Vance, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER). Coach Collins is also allowed to be human and sometimes lets his emotions get the better of him. His homelife with wife Dayna (Taraji P. Henson, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON) and daughter Alana (China Anne McClain) is sensitively portrayed as they pick up the pieces after the storm and forge ahead.

Director Tim Story handles the court action in a way that makes it exciting without jazzing it up with a lot of slow-motion and other cinematic tricks, and it's always convincing and down-to-earth even during the inevitable "fist in the air" moments. This carries over to the dramatic scenes as well, where he gives his actors room to emote while keeping them reined in at the same time. The script by Robert Eisele gives us characters and situations that are lacking the cartoonishness and superficiality which is so often seen in films of this kind.

As Coach Collins, Forest Whitaker does his usual excellent job, giving a low-key performance that only goes into overdrive when it's right for the character, and he gets able support from Vance and Washington. Taraji P. Henson and China Anne McClain are appealing as his wife and daughter. All of the young actors playing the Ehret High Patriots are good, including (the no longer "Li'l") Bow Wow, and Li'l Wayne is funny as a neighborhood hustler who thinks he can clean up by betting against the Patriots. Unfortunately, the awesome Bonnie Hunt is pretty much wasted as the school principle, in a role that seems to have ended up mostly on the cutting room floor.

The DVD from Vivendi and Dimension is in widescreen with English 5.1 sound and English and Spanish subtitles. Extras consist of 24 deleted scenes (over 30 minutes) which are worth watching and include some of that missing Bonnie Hunt footage. Also, hang on during the closing credits and you'll get to see a clip of the real Al Collins and his team.

I've seen "inspirational" basketball movies that were so maudlin and inept that they either made me sick to my stomach or made me hate basketball, or both. (And then there's ROCK THE PAINT, which made me hate movies.) Here, the Ehret High Patriots' struggle to make it to that fateful final game is played out in a straightforward, believable way and is all the more effective for it. HURRICANE SEASON wants us to feel good, but it doesn't rub our noses in it.

Buy it at


No comments: