“The Express”

Express

By Jae-Ha Kim
Amazon.com
October 25, 2008

Based on the real-life story of college football hero Ernie Davis, The Express will remind some moviegoers of the heart-tugging Brian’s Song.          Ernie Davis was a star athlete at Syracuse University and the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy. Unlike other winners of that era, he wasn’t allowed to attend his banquet dinner because the venue didn’t serve blacks.

He died of leukemia at the age of 23 in 1963. That element of his story is well known to football fans.

What the filmmakers concentrate on in The Express isn’t just Davis’ athletic prowess, but the relationship he had with his coach Ben Schwartzwalder (Dennis Quaid).

Rob Brown (Stop-Loss, Coach Carter) lends both gravity and charm to the role of Davis. He plays Davis as a strong willed and moral young man who refuses to let racism and discrimination dominate his life. He joins a Jewish fraternity, gets along with his predominantly white teammates and shows respect for his family and coach.

The film is wise not to present Schwartzwalder as wholly color blind. Though not overtly racist, he makes a few references that would not be acceptable in modern-day society.

Overall though, the coach doesn’t care what color his players are, as long as they share the common goal of winning.

Quaid is well cast in the role, adding just the right amount of gruff mannerisms without becoming a caricature.

Brown has the difficult task of adding suspense to a character where most of the audience already knows his fate. Still, he manages to keep moviegoers on their toes–hoping for a miracle that we know will never come.

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