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Hardball
DVD disk
10.05.2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
Hardball order
Director:
Brian Robbins

Actors:
Keanu Reeves
Diane Lane
John Hawkes

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A poor bastard (Reeves) who's into gambling debts over his ears is cornered into taking a job coaching a baseball team of rag-tag inner city kids. Plotting to dump the team as soon as he's out of the hole, he gets the hots for their schoolteacher (Lane) and begins to realize the error of his ways.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
This film was definitely not what I expected and actually turned out to be much more. If you're also expecting a redundant re-hash of such slop as THE MIGHTY DUCKS and countless other movies about guys who don't want to coach kids but end up loving it, this will not tow that line. This movie has a real dark side to it as it explores Reeves' self-destructiveness in gambling, drinking and basically throwing his life away. Mob beatings and heads smashing through windows is not the typical fare in a feel-good movie, but sometimes I guess you have to feel like crap before you start feeling good.

A very good ensemble cast of kids are at the core of the film as a team which looks to any leadership they can get. Devoid of any direction, the team barely has enough players to go on until Reeves, forced to make it work puts himself to the task. With no glaring moments of bad acting by Reeves, he gains new respect as a good guy / bad guy with good taste in women. The woman I speak of the always delicious Diane Lane who plays the schoolteacher to a tee and who makes me wish for grade school again. While the movie does lapse into stereotypes of inner-city kids, it keeps an edgy realism that makes you appreciate it for what it is. Definitely a solid outing by all involved and some good filmmaking. The tear jerking ending is also atypical of the genre.
THE EXTRAS
Decent offerings on the DVD begin with a commentary track by director Brian Robbins and Writer John Gatins. Nothing really breakthrough about this but it's pretty nice to listen to in the afternoon while watching the movie. Since I never miss a chance to check out Diane Lane, I enjoyed it a lot. A 12-minute featurette called "The Making of Hardball" is also there and gets into the usual stuff, with some interviews, production footage and the rest of the usual suspects. All the kids make an appearance in this one. Three deleted scenes are also available but don't really give you any new input.

A music video by boy-idiot Li'l Bow-Wow is also on the DVD. As a protégé of large-scale moron Snoop Dogg, he shows you what it's really like to be very stupid. Unnecessary and annoying, I did not watch the entire clip as I couldn't stop laughing and my stomach was beginning to hurt. The last feature is a thing called Interstitials. It's basically three thirty-second clips of some of the kids saying what they'll do if they reach the big leagues. I don't really know what bling-bling means, so I didn't really get it. The trailer is also there.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
I got a real jolt from this surprisingly good movie and got a real kick out of watching it. I'm not a big fan of Keanu but I can't hold anything against him in this one and the film was a real picker-upper despite its relatively sad ending. I would highly recommend renting this and even buying it if you're into the genre. Not what you'd expect, but definitely fun to watch.
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