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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/06/2002

Two out of five stars
Running time: 106 mins

Watchable drama for the most part, despite the clichés, but it descends into ham-fisted sentimentality before the end and outstays its welcome.

There is a great film that involves a little league baseball team made up of no-hopers – it’s called The Bad News Bears, it stars Walter Matthau and is well worth keeping an eye out for, in case it crops up on TV again. The problem with every single ‘coaching a team of no-hopers’ movie since is that they all try to be as good as The Bad News Bears and all end up failing horribly. Hardball is one such movie.

The Plot

Mr. Keanu plays Hardened Gambling Addict Connor O’Neill. After borrowing money from every loan shark in town, he ends up neck-deep in debt to some heavies who are quite keen to see how far he can walk with both legs broken.

So, naturally, he does what any self-respecting gambling addict would do in the circumstances and…um…agrees to coach a little-league team of no-hopers from ���the projects’. In doing so he –hey!- “learns something about himself” and also falls for their rather lovely schoolteacher, played by Diane Lane (who can also be seen in Unfaithful).

Hardball plays like The Big Book Of Sports Movie Clichés crossed with The Big Book Of Ghetto Movie Clichés. You’ve got your team full of stock characters (fat kid, weird kid, mouthy kid, cute kid etc), plus you’ve got your drive-by shootings and your jokes about crack.

For the most part, the film is watchable enough. The kids are all good actors and you get to like their characters. Keanu, for once, is actually pretty good, at least until he starts waving his arms about and yelling “HAH!” for no particular reason. Also, it has to be said, that his ‘romantic scenes’ (“I’m interested in whatever you want me to be interested in”) with the lovely Diane Lane are embarrassingly handled and will make you cringe.

The main problem with the film (apart from Lane’s part being criminally underwritten) is that it wants to be A Serious Drama instead of being the feel-good sports movie it ought to be. This means that the last twenty minutes are saturated with vomit-inducing sentimentality and gratuitous tear-jerking. You’ll probably want to cry, but you’ll hate yourself for it afterwards.

In short, if your Keanu-tolerance is high, this is just about worth watching. The script has a few good lines and the support cast are good but beware The Ending Of Doom. And someone please give Diane Lane some bigger parts…

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Content updated: 17/02/2020 08:40

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