Monday, August 26, 2013


Directed by Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin.
2011. Rated PG-13, 113 minutes.
Bill Courtney
O.C. Brown
Montrail “Money” Brown
Chavis Daniels

Manassas High School in Memphis, TN has no football history worth speaking of unless noting how remarkably bad they've been through the years. Even though the school has been in existence since 1899, yes 1899, they've not won so much as a single playoff game. Ever. In fact, when current Coach Bill Courtney took over, they hadn't won a football game of any kind in fourteen years. Over the handful of seasons he’s been there, the team has at least shown signs of life, winning a few games each year and visibly improving. He hopes this will be the year the school finally manages to get off the playoff snide.

By itself, a school with that athletic history reaching for loftier heights than they've ever attained would be worthy of a documentary. However, that’s merely the tip of the iceberg. Coach Courtney didn't just inherit a bad football program. He’s also inherited a roster full of kids with tough situations, poverty and broken homes among the most common problems. This doesn't even take into account that he’s a white coach at an all-black school. We follow him as he tries to make school history and simultaneously mentor his players, build up their character as young men.

Other than the coach, we spend most of our time with three players. There’s O.C., a lovable giant who is a gifted athlete but struggles in the classroom. Next is "Money," another nice kid. He outperforms his size on the field. Off the field, he’s an emotional wreck, sensitive almost beyond belief. Finally, we have Chavis. He’s the type of kid your parents warned you about. The chip seems permanently affixed to his shoulder. He’s perpetually angry and occasionally violent thanks to a hair-trigger temper. In fact, we only get to meet him after he’s finished a stint in juvie.

As it turns out, Coach Courtney is married with children of his own. We get a glimpse at how his spending so much time with his team is affecting them. Unfortunately, this is the one area where the movie feels like it doesn't go far enough. We hear from his wife, but never directly from his children. I suspect this is by the coach’s choice so I can’t knock the movie too hard.

Really, it’s hard to knock the movie too much at all. Each situation grabs us by the throat and doesn't let go. As a result, it’s easy to get choked up a time or two as certain things happen and other things don’t. It’s so wonderful as what it is, I hope no one ever gets the bright idea to make a scripted movie out of it. Whatever spit shine some writer applies to it will likely rub away the beautiful rawness of it and oversimplify until we have a tired sequel to The Blindside. Undefeated deserves better. It deserves to be left alone because it is magnificent as it is.


  1. Oh God, please don't let anyone make a scripted movie based on this story. They'd just mess it up, besides, Undefeated is perfect as is.

    Great review here. I loved this one too.

  2. I've got my fingers crossed that it never happens. Thanks!