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Hardball (2001)
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Review Date: September 08, 2001
Director: Brian Robbins
Writer: John Gatins
Producers: Brian Robbins, Tina Nides, Michael Tollin
Actors:
Keanu Reeves as Conor O'Neill
Diane Lane as Elizabeth Wilkes
DeWayne Warren as G-Baby
Plot:
A gambling man who drinks too much is stuck between a rock and a hard place. He owes money all over town, and the only way that he could pay his debts back is by coaching an inner-city kid's baseball team. He reluctantly agrees to do it, but ultimately cannot fight his own demons and must come to grips with what he wants for his own life.
Critique:
Every other year, there seems to be a film that comes out of left field for me (pun intended). A movie that makes me forget about all of the more reasonable points on which to appreciate a film on a more "technical" level, and just goes for the heart. Well, I am human after all and every now and then, a soft spot is gonna be touched, and as much as REMEMBER THE TITANS was mostly unoriginal and predictable last year, HARDBALL goes through much of the same material that we've seen before here, but still manages to work as an all-around successful movie with its heart so obviously in the right place. Is it sappy? Yes! Is it predictable? Yes! Does it matter? No. This is the kind of movie that either pulls you into its web or doesn't. It's a very simple premise (a lost man looking for a way out of his gambling debts), but it plays all of its cards just right. The main character in this film, Keanu Reeves, isn't a "nice guy". He doesn't start off as a nice guy, and even when given the opportunity to redeem himself, doesn't quickly turn into a nice guy overnight. He has problems in his life...many problems. He gambles too much, drinks too much and doesn't really have any goals. But it isn't long before he's confronted with many of the lessons of life, which most of us already know, but seem to take for granted. Live for the day. Cherish your loved ones. Create a meaning for yourself. Don't give up on your dreams. Cliches to be sure, but also very true. Reeves' character spends a lot of time with underprivileged children in this movie, and ultimately begins to see the harsh reality of their lives and the tough nature of being brought up under less groomed conditions. Basically, he gets a second chance in his own life.

The "projects" shown in this film are a place that would scare the crap out of any living adult, and sadly, many children live and breathe there every day. I liked this movie because it gave me my own slap across the face. Life could be much worse. There are a lot of people who need help out there. Giving back to the community is important. Life is never perfect, but you can always try and improve yourself. I also appreciated the superb work done here by the filmmakers, since the story is essentially one that we've seen a number of times before, but it's made more relevant here, there's comedy mixed into the drama and Reeves is given the opportunity to utilize his restrained acting demeanor to draw us further into his character's inner-struggles (you never really know where he's coming from or going). But even more importantly, they should all be commended for pulling off one of the most difficult tasks in the movie biz and that is the fine line between films that are super-sappy and effectively poignant.

I was touched by this film and hope to bring some attention to it with this review. Alright, so maybe I was having an "off-day" or something, but it grabbed me by the heart-strings and played me like a fool, and this is a very rare occurrence indeed. By the end of this puppy, I was tearing up like a diapered child myself. Very odd. So if you enjoyed REMEMBER THE TITANS and don't mind sitting through a fairly predictable movie with a sound message of hope, redemption, faith and second chances, I suspect that you will be taken by this film as well. And the fact that it's all based on a true story (and a book entitled "Hardball: A Season in the Projects" by Daniel Coyle) makes it all that much more effective.
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian
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