Samuel L Jackson plays a no-nonsense coach who joins a California school to turn its rag-tag team of angry youths into an academically successful winning team.
Based on a true story, it employs many of the tropes you’d expect in the genre. Personally I can’t stand sports movies. Why should I care if this team wins over another one? Even if you like the characters and are rooting for them in general, there’s no reason to prefer them over some other random team who might have an equally inspiring tale.
Fortunately in Coach Carter the other elements of the film, such as the coach’s desire to impose discipline on the team to facilitate their academic success and the social issues faced by poor and black young men in America, are so prevalent that whether or not they win basketball games is of secondary importance. It’s also well directed, with an energetic hip-hop soundtrack.
Jackson gives an excellent performance as the coach. The snappy dialogue is perfectly written for him, and he strikes the right balance between being tough while showing genuine concern for the troubled youths, even though you may not be won over by some of his more unorthodox methods. The rest of the cast are also strong, including a young Channing Tatum in one of his early roles.
In many obvious ways it’s similar to 187, in which Samuel L Jackson plays a teacher at a disadvantaged school, although slightly worse due to being about basketball. The first time I heard of the film was in school, when a PE teacher showed a clip for inspiration. Since I went on to get an E in my GCSE PE it’s fair to say it’s more effective as a piece of entertainment than as a teaching aid.