Based on the true story, Coach Carter follows the tale of a high school coach who was once an All-American athlete himself. He is brought in to coach basketball at his old school where he still holds a few records. He accepts a challenge to turn around a program that has become mired in a tradition of defeat. He takes a no nonsense approach to the players from the moment he meets them He insists on being called sir and insists that they demand the same respect from him. He puts them through workout drills that seem almost impossible, exhausting the entire squad. A few leave, unwilling to meet the high standards. In addition to the physical shape he is whipping them into, he has brought about a higher level of team spirit. That spirit is evidenced when one of the walkouts asks to return. Carter requires him to complete an impossible number of tasks. When the player comes up short as the deadline approaches, the team offers to take some of the load and do it on their own time. Lesson learned. Carter requires them to sign detailed contracts that outline his expectations which include a 2.3 GPA, .3 above the state requirement. The method pays off as the school goes on an incredible winning streak. But when Carter discovers that several of the team members are failing in their academic responsibilities, he makes a controversial call to lock the gym, canceling all practices and games until the GPA is met by everyone on the team. The community becomes outraged, but Carter holds steady, willing to be fired rather than relent. To his surprise, the team stands behind him, and they help each other reach the goal in time to make a run at the championship.
Coach Carter is really two films in one. It is certainly a sports film with many of the clichés that entails. You’re going to get a good dose of sportsmanship and plenty of basketball action. There is a second film here that makes this one rise above the many chumps to champions type movie you know you’ve seen a hundred times, if you’ve seen it once. Carter, as played by Samuel L. Jackson, is a dynamic character. In a way Jackson takes something away from the accomplishments of the real Ken Carter, because he’s so powerful that for us, it’s no wonder these kids were willing to follow him into Hell and back. I’m sure the real Ken Carter had a much tougher fight, simply because he’s no Samuel F’n Jackson. The second film here deals with the neighborhood the school is in. These kids deal with drugs and violence on a daily basis. Their lives outside of the school are likely more trying than anything they’ve encountered in school or basketball. This “second” film really begins after the first hour when the lockout begins.
The acting in this film is wonderful. Beyond the obvious performance of Jackson, I found all of the students to be believable. Timo Cruz was a particular standout as Ricky. Ricky goes through an incredible rollercoaster of emotions. Cruz sells it the entire way. Singer Ashanti does a pretty good job here. There’s definitely some hope of a serious acting career if she wants it. The film has a solid pace, and there’s just enough basketball without the focus being too much on the sport. I thought that the film’s balance was a testament to a superior script and one heck of a directing job by Thomas Carter (no relation to the coach).
It has long been a problem for our society that good athletes do not live in the same world that we do. From high school to college and into the pros, they become accustomed to being given all manner of breaks. To me, that’s where this movie shines. What a refreshing message to send our young athletes. I taught high school for 7 years and went up against the athletic wall where football coaches are leaning on you to inflate a player’s grades. I’ve even been accused of being a problem by a coach when I wouldn’t let a star fullback out of a major project. We need more Coach Carters in the world.
Coach Carter is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. You get a solid 1080p image using an AVC/MPEG-4 codec. The bit rate provides a steady 30+ average mbps.Most of the film takes place indoors, and even when exteriors are used it is more often than not night. That means colors don’t really pop with an all natural look to them. Lights make a huge difference, and overall there’s a somewhat yellowish tint to everything. Black levels are impressive and allow for some nice shadow definition. Detail is where this whole presentation shines, however. You’ll get about as close to the basketball action as you would want. You’ll see fabric definition on the team’s uniforms. Scuff marks on the court and sweat are just some of the fine details this image offers. While not spectacular, the video will impress.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is a little above average. There isn’t any abundance of surrounds, and your sub is likely to fall asleep. Dialog is perfectly centered, so you’ll hear every word. There’s a solid soundtrack of tunes offered mostly as source music so they won’t grab you as much as an isolated soundtrack would. Still, they appear natural enough, and maybe that’s the best way to do it. It’s pretty much average for a Blu-ray release. Nothing stands out, either for good or bad.
The extras are pretty much in disappointing standard def.
There is an interesting feature that allows you to bookmark certain scenes in the film to make it easier to get directly to them in the future. I’m using a PS3 with a hard drive, so my bookmarks survived shutdown; I’m not sure if they do on a normal standalone Blu-ray player. If you tried it, let me know if it worked.
Deleted Scenes: There are 6 scenes you can play individually or with a handy play all option. Most are nonessential and just as well cut. There is a humorous scene where Jackson lays down the law about the team talking about his Momma.
Coach Carter – The Man Behind The Movie: Meet the real Coach Ken Carter. He talks about some of the film’s incidents and offers his motivations behind his actions. He’s joined by former players, cast, and crew to talk about the sad affairs that once again exist at Richmond High for much of the 20 minute running time.
Fast Break At Richmond High: This 12 minute feature looks at the cast and their basketball training.
Music Video: Twista performs the song Hope.
Writing Coach Carter – The Two Man Game: This short 8 minute features sits down with the writers and talks about the process of turning this real life story into a film. They are candid about the fictionalized elements here as well.
Coach Carter – Making The Cut: This 18 minute feature is hosted by producers Mike Tollin and Brian Robbins. They discuss the film’s evolution. They talk about how they became aware of Ken Carter’s story. The real Ken Carter explains why he went with these guys to make the film based on his experiences. There’s a bit of a mutual admiration society action here, but it’s all good.
Trailer: About the only extra in HD.
I was pretty impressed with the film overall. While it might appear to be a rather ambitious undertaking, I think it was all handled pretty well. Coach Carter walks the fine line between being inspirational without being too preachy at the same time. I even found Jackson to be a little reserved compared to many of his parts. There’s no question he has a much larger range than being very eloquent with the F bombs. I did not see the film at the movies or in just DVD format, so my comparisons are rather in their own box. I highly recommend this one. I think you’ll appreciate that it’s not brought to a pat and contrived ending. The writers decided to keep it real, instead of reel. “Not quite your storybook ending, huh?”