“Brian Banks” stars Aldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, Sherri Shepherd, and Melanie Liburd. Released on August 9, 2019, the film is about a high school football player who is falsely accused of committing rape.
The film is directed by Tom Shadyac, who also directed films such as “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”, “Liar Liar”, “Patch Adams”, and “Bruce Almighty”. Like each and every one of us, the justice system has its share of flaws. The members of the justice system deliver punishments to people who deserve to be punished, but there are also times where they give out punishments to those who don’t deserve them. I’m talking about people who claimed they did nothing wrong, yet they get the boot anyway based on what the justice system believed. It’s one of the most frustrating things that we’re dealing with in this day and age. There are two quotes in mind that define people who are convicted of their crimes: “Innocent until proven guilty” and “guilty until proven innocent”. The film I’ll be talking about represents the latter. Truth be told, I had to choose between seeing this or seeing “The Kitchen” because those were the only two films that I haven’t seen yet. After countless hours of speculation, I decided to see the former since I thought that it might not stay in theaters for more than two weeks. Did I make the right choice? Let’s find out.
The film does depict Banks and his time in prison as an innocent man, but the majority of the story is him fighting for his own freedom after he was released from prison, with the events that lead him behind bars being shown as flashbacks. The most important thing about films that deal with events like this is crafting a story that honors both the real-life situation it's based on and the emotional core behind it. While the latter had a few rough edges that prevented it from scoring a ton of touchdowns, the film managed to surprise me by providing a well-crafted and heartfelt depiction of the flawed justice system as well as one's will to let go of the past and fight for their own brighter future. Sure, it does have the look of a made-for-television film like the ones on Lifetime, but there were actually a ton of tolerable moments that prevented it from feeling like one. It’s not too sappy, it’s not too obnoxious. It’s an investing feel-good drama that shows off the filmmakers’ honest effort in respecting Banks’ real-life story. If there are a couple of things that made the story flawed for me, it’s that it can be pretty predictable for people who experienced this event themselves (which is highly unavoidable) and there were a couple of details that were left unexplored, such as the ones involving the woman who falsely accused Banks. Other than that, the film did a nice job at making the plot well-paced and engaging without the need to include unnecessary details. Tom Shadyac has been known for helming films that have fantasy and comedy elements, so it was quite surprising to see him direct a drama that’s based on real events. Thankfully, he was able to pull it off by delivering the same amount of heart and soul that made most of his other films successful in the first place. The cast delivered some very convincing performances, but the main star of the film is Aldis Hodge as the title character. Hodge was given the opportunity to embody Banks as a caring, yet broken, man whose dream to play in the NFL was shattered because of the false accusation, and from what I saw onscreen, he didn’t disappoint. He definitely proved to me that he’s passionate enough to play a role like this in terms of expressing the personality and mannerisms of his character. Greg Kinnear and Sherri Shepherd also had some pretty good moments as Justin Brooks and Leomia, respectively.
Overall, “Brian Banks” may not be as powerful or complex as its themes, but it’s still an inspiring fact-based drama that’s full of heart and compassion. Despite its issues with its storytelling, the film is anchored by a talented cast (most notably Hodge) and Shadyac’s direction. I wasn’t expecting myself to like it that much based on the trailers I’ve seen, but luckily, it was able to prove me wrong. If you’re in a mood for some inspiration or if you’re familiar with the events that happened to Banks, it’s worth checking out.