Hardball

on September 14, 2001 by Tim Cogshell
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   Keanu Reeves plays Conor O' Neil, a ticket scalping, chain-smoking, alcoholic gambler whose life is passing him by. As his debts start to catch up with him, he turns to a wealthy friend for a loan. What he gets is a deal: He can have the money if he agrees to coach a Little League baseball team, the Kekambas, from the infamous Cabrini Green housing project. Yes, it's the "Bad New Bears" meets the "Mighty Ducks," with a touch of "Dangerous Minds"--all embarrassingly dumb movies. Yes, there's the requisite love interest, trite story arc and more than a few clichés about poverty, discrimination and reactionary liberal angst. But it works.

   The half-dozen young African American actors who are the real stars of the film manage to avoid the trap of sounding like they're reading dialogue written by a 35-year-old white man, even though they are. That's just plain good acting. For that matter, one of these days we're going to have to stop making fun of Keanu Reeves' wooden acting style. The fact is, Mr. Reeves has acquitted himself very well in his last several films: From "The Matrix" to "The Gift" and even "The Replacements," he's been very good, and he's good here as well. The film moves deftly from drama to comedy and back again. Director Brian Robbins manages to keep the film's edge despite having to cut it for a PG-13 rating. Stars Keanu Reeves, Diane Lane, John Hawkes, Trevor Morgan, D.B. Sweeney, Michael Jordan and Stephen Cinabro. Directed by Brian Robbins. Written by John Gatins. Produced by Mike Tollin, Brian Robbins and Tina Nides. A Paramount release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language and some violence. Running time: 115 min

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