Making the Grades
Rising gang violence and a failing incarceration system are miserably evident in the movie Gridiron Gang. Depicted with shocking and graphic detail, gang members shoot or run down youth from neighboring hoods. Later, a troubled teenager fires a gun inside a busy convenience store and then kills an abusive family member with several, close range shots to the chest. But the aggression doesn't stop there. Inside the prison walls of Camp Kilpatrick, competing gangs fight it out with fists, intimidation and racial slurs. Worst of all, the reform program appears to be little more than a revolving door with nearly 75 percent of the offenders tossed back into the system almost as quickly as they are released.
As a probation officer, Sean Porter (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) is appalled by the delinquents' return rate and the constant outbreaks in the detention complex. To combat the cycle of violence, he wants to introduce football as part of the camp's activities. But the facility's directors meet his idea with skepticism, worried about the cost, the danger of physical contact between players and the possibility of finding someone to compete with them.
Unfazed by the reservations, Porter and his fellow counselor, Malcolm Moore (Xzibit), conscript a group of juvenile delinquents to practice on the compound's green area. For lawbreakers accustomed to solving their problems with a weapon, the physical pain and long hours of a rigorous training schedule push them beyond anything they have experienced before. But Porter sees the Mustangs football team as more than a diversion for the inmates. The team builds self-esteem and discipline in boys who have grown up in a destructive world of neglect and crime. It replaces gang mentality with team spirit and gives the young offenders a second pass at shaping a future.
While the startling scenes of violence will be too explicit for some viewers, the film fortunately tempers the opening with strong messages about accepting others, learning responsibility, finding forgiveness and taking charge of life in a constructive way. Additionally, the movie portrays the positive impact of parents, and of committed role models like the real-life corrections officers, Sean Porter and Malcolm Moore, on whom the movie was based.
Picking up the pigskin triggers a change in these boys -- a change initiated by men who believe it is possible to learn more about yourself and others while playing on the gridiron.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Gridiron Gang.
In this movie, what kind of power does a gang have over its members? How does the boys’ surroundings and home life contribute to their involvement in the gangs? Why is it so difficult for the boys to change their lives after they get out of jail?
What influence does Sean Porter’s mother have on him? What does she say is her greatest accomplishment in life? What effect does that have on Sean’s dream to help the boys?
Why is forgiveness an important part of dealing with the past? How does learning to forgive impact some of the characters in this movie?