The film Brian Banks opens this weekend, and the Atlanta NFL franchise plays a part in this narrative. The dream of playing football is a big part of the film, but this movie is based on a true story about a 16-year-old male that is victimized by rumor, gossip and hearsay.
The film opens on a playground as Brian Banks (Aldis Hodge) watches from a gated fence. He is enjoying the game of pee wee football, but is annoyed when he has to answer a call from his parole officer.
Under a new California law, Brian is forced to limit his travel outside of Los Angeles. This law derails his chances to play football with a small time college, which opens up old wounds. He was a high prospect recruit for USC, but this was prevented when Brian was accused of sexual assault in a high school hallway. When a plea bargain deal failed, Brian spent his formative years in prison.
With only the support of his mother (Sherri Shepherd), Brian perseveres and obtains the aid of a civil rights lawyer, Justin Brooks (Greg Kinnear). Yet, Brian’s case is mired in bureaucracy and legalese. A break in the case occurs when Brian’s accuser makes an overture to be his Facebook friend.
Brian Banks is a fascinating modern story, with echoes of great drama from Jean Paul Sartre, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Friedrich Nietzsche. In the darkest abyss of solitary confinement, Brian finds his true character when he remembers the inspirational words of his mentor (Morgan Freeman, in an unaccredited cameo).
Since his recent passing, HBO has been playing the documentary The Many Lives of Nick Buoniconti, which recounts the man’s career as football player, a lawyer and as an advocate to cure paralysis. Like Brian Banks, Nick Buoniconti used football as a means to an end, but it did not define their lives. Brian Banks is a cautionary film about having a dream denied, but through character development, life does not have to be a nightmare.