Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Phil Joanou|
|Produced by||Neal H. Moritz
|Written by||Jeff Maguire|
|Music by||Trevor Rabin|
|Edited by||Joel Negron|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$41 million|
Gridiron Gang is a 2006 American sports drama film directed by Phil Joanou, and starring Dwayne Johnson, Xzibit, L. Scott Caldwell and Kevin Dunn. It is loosely based on the true story of the Kilpatrick Mustangs during the 1990 season. The film was released in the United States on September 15, 2006. It was distributed by Columbia Pictures.
Sean Porter (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) works at Kilpatrick Detention Center in Los Angeles. He becomes frustrated at not being able to help the kids get away from their problems in life when they are released from the center, such as street gangs and drug dealings. He decides to create a football team so the kids can feel like they're part of something. Porter believes that football will teach the teenage inmates what it takes to be responsible, mature, and disciplined winners. He picks out a few kids in the room that he feels will benefit from this program and requires that they practice with him the following day. He states to his new team, the Kilpatrick Mustangs, "You do it my way, not your way. Your way got you here and you're here because you lost. Right now you are all losers, but if you accept this challenge and stick with the program, you are all going to be winners at the end." Two of the teens do not get along because they are from rival gangs. Willie Weathers (Jade Yorker) is from the 88’s and Kelvin Owens (David Thomas) is from the 95’s. The first game is against the best team in the league, Barrington. The game starts out somewhat positive for the Mustangs, as they recover a fumble on the first drive, but things quickly turn. They are demolished by Barrington, losing by 38 points. After starting 0–2, the Mustangs start winning games as they learn to work together. Kelvin and Willie finally shake hands when they win a game by one touchdown after Kelvin makes a big block for Willie. Near the end of the season, the Mustangs are headed for the playoffs. They are getting more publicity and more fans along the way.
One of Willie’s 88 gang mates, Free, stops by the field. He realizes that Kelvin is a 95. Free and Kelvin get into a fight, and Free shoots Kelvin in the shoulder. As Free prepares to put another bullet in Kelvin's head, Willie runs toward Free and tackles him to the ground to save Kelvin. Free is shocked that Willie helped Kelvin and not him. The police show up, and Free runs off. He fires at the responding officers who fire in return, killing him. Although Kelvin survives the attack, he will not be able to play in the finals. Kilpatrick is almost forced to forfeit the playoff game due to concerns about further gang violence, but Porter's boss steps in to prevent it by arranging for volunteers from neighboring police departments to patrol the game. The County Sheriff's spokesperson states that "We will do whatever it takes to ensure that gangs do not take over the lives of our youth". In the playoff game, a rematch against Barrington, the Mustangs go into the half down 14–0. Willie gives a motivational speech, and they go out and beat Barrington on the last play of the game. It is revealed in the narration that they lost the championship game 17–14, but no one called them losers. A few months later, Sean's football method is officially made part of the program.
Nearly all the former members of the Mustangs are doing well in their new lives outside the detention center. Willie Weathers is playing football at a top boarding school, Kelvin Owens is playing football for Washington High, Kenny Bates is going to school in Redondo Beach and living with his mother, Junior Palaita got a job working for a furniture company, Leon Hayes is playing football for Dorsey High, Miguel Perez and Donald Madlock went back to their old gangs and are now in California youth authority prisons. Bug Wendal was killed in a drive-by shooting in Compton, California. Only five of the players are back in jail. The movie ends with a new group of Mustangs training for the next season. Some footage of the 1993 Gridiron Gang documentary is shown during the end credits.
- Dwayne Johnson as Sean Porter
- Xzibit as Malcolm Moore
- Kevin Dunn as Ted Dexter
- Leon Rippy as Paul Higa
- L. Scott Caldwell as Bobbi Porter
- Jade Yorker as Willie Weathers
- David Thomas as Kelvin Owens
- Mo as Leon Hayes
- Setu Taase as Junior Palaita
- Trever O'Brien as Kenny Bates
- Brandon Mychal Smith as Bug Wendal
- Jurnee Smollett as Danyelle Rollins
- Ambrit Millhouse as Cherise
- Michael J. Pagan as Roger Weathers
- Jamal Mixon as Jamal Evans
- Danny Martinez as Miguel Perez
- Omari Hardwick as Free
- Mary Mara as Mrs. Bates
- Michael Jace as Mr. Jones
- Anna Maria Horsford as Sharon Weathers
- Dan Martin as Terrell Rollins
- Six Reasons as C-Co
Rotten Tomatoes reports a 42% approval rating with an average rating of 5.6/10 based on 100 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "The role of probation officer Sean Porter fits Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson like a glove; however, the execution is so cliched, the youths' stories (based on real events), fail to inspire."