FILM REVIEW 1
Looking for a feel-good story about second chances? The Replacements might be just the film you are looking for. It stars Keanu Reeves as Shane Falco a failed quarterback who after a horrible loss in the Sugar Bowl years ago is given another chance by an old 80s coach Jimmy McGinty, played by Gene Hackman. Coach McGinty has been hired by the owner of the Washington Sentinels after all that teams players go on strike over the current salary cap. McGinty uses this opportunity to hire a unique assortment of washed up former players to fill out the team, including “Footsteps” Falco as quarterback.
Other players recruited include Orlando Jones who plays a teammate who is fast as hell but has trouble catching the ball, at least without glue or something sticky on his hands. Even a Japanese sumo wrestler who doubles as a lineman is brought on board. Also recruited is a soccer player, played by Rhys Ifans, who can punt the ball like nobody else despite his “wiry” physique and gambling problem. There is even a convicted felon who is allowed out of jail to play on the team. But that’s okay because the team has a police officer playing for the team as well, expertly acted by Jon Favreau, but watch out because he has the disposition of a wild bull—luckily, he plays on the team’s defense. And of all things there is even a deaf player that communicates using sign language on the crew. But that is the charm of this film from the year 2000, it is a story about misfits. Interestingly it is based on a true event, the NFL football player strike of the late 1980s.
However, mainly this film’s through line focuses on the quarterback of the team. Thus, we follow Shane Falco’s journey as he tries to help lead his team to win three out of the remaining four games left in the Washington Sentinels’ season. If he succeeds then the Sentinels make it into the playoffs and Falco and his fellow teammates might find redemption for their past losses.
When we first join Shane, he is handling cleaning and maintenance on various boats and house boats trying to forget his past, so it seems. So, he is surprised when coach Jimmy McGinty comes to visit Shane trying to recruit him onto the team. He asks Shane if he wants to be remembered for his past losses, especially the Sugar Bowl disaster. In response Shane says, “I don’t want to be remembered at all…” But despite his initial reluctance for whatever reason Shane has a change of heart and will not let this opportunity to try again pass him by. So, Shane shows up to the replacement player team’s first practice to accept this new challenge. Although on his way Shane gets harassed by many of the striking NFL players, including Martel—the striking team’s quarterback. They even tip over Shane’s truck onto its’ side, literally!
Indeed the obstacles are many for Shane; from eccentric teammates, to trying to lead those teammates to a win, and show the striking players what it means to play with heart for the love of the game—which is something the striking players forgot a long time ago. Not to mention navigating a budding relationship with one of the team’s beautiful cheerleaders, played by Brooke Langton.
This comedy is packed with lots of laughs and heart. Plus, sports fans will be happy to find that legendary sports announcers John Madden and Pat Summerall are on hand to call the action, as they do best. This film is written specifically for those who might sometimes wish they could get another chance in life. In fact, one of the best lines of the film comes from coach McGinty when Shane asks him why he chose him to quarterback for the replacement team. McGinty says, “When I see you, I see two people, the man you are and the man you ought to be. One day those two will meet and it should make for a hell of a football player.” Thus, in more ways than one director Howard Deutch’s film, The Replacements, fulfills the promise of its’ premise.