A baseball diamond in the heart of Chicago’s projects sets the scene for another one of Keanu Reeves’ touching dramas. In the past it was such films as “A Walk In The Clouds” and “Sweet November” that sent the audience for a roller-coaster ride of emotions with a tissue in one hand and a bucket of popcorn in the other.
“Hardball” opened in theaters on September 14th. Reeves stars as Conor O’Neill, a broken down man with no job and a gambling problem. Caught in a bind with the wrong bookies, he has to find a way to pay off his debts. He turns to old friend Jimmy Fleming (Mike McGlone) for financial help. The only offer his friend could give was a check of $500 a week. In return, Conor would have to coach the Cabrini Green housing project Little League team in Chicago.
The movie starts off with a slow pace, only focusing on Reeve’s portrayal as a heavy gambler. Once he sets foot onto the field the movie shapes up to par and blows the audience’s mind and touches hearts once again in traditional Keanu style.
On the field are a dozen young boys waiting for a coach. When Conor arrives, still looking like he just rolled out of the bar, they don’t know what they are in for. No surprise to them or the audience.
The cast of young ballplayers includes Brian Reed, Alan Ellis, Jr., Michael Perkins, Michael B. Jordan and DeWayne Warren.
A closer look at the environment of the projects makes Conor realize that the boys need him to coach the team. Playing hardball is their way of escaping the harsh reality at home. The movie takes the audience into an eye-opener of what goes on in these and similar neighborhoods and paints a good picture of the dangerous project area.
As the movie switches from Conor coaching the boys to a love interest that develops with their teacher, Miss Wilkes (Diane Lane), laughs are shared while the kids run the show. Cuss language and rough slang coming from their mouths cause laughter to breeze the crowd. The cute kids and the love that grows between the coach and his team, the Kekambas, is what sets emotions flying to the outfield.
The film is a modern uplifting version of the 70’s hit “The Bad News Bears. ” Director Brian Robbins has directed recent comedy flicks “Varsity Blues” and “Ready To Rumble.” The story is adapted for the screen by John Gatins based on the novel of the same name by Daniel Coyle. Some artists that make up the film’s soundtrack include hip-hoppers Jermaine Dupri and Da Brat.
“Hardball” heightens the audience’s spirits at the end of the tragic week that swept through our nation. Building the self-esteem of these kids that have to grow up in such a negative environment delivers a great message. Even the youngest lives can have meaning and touch the lives of others through a common American pastime, Little League baseball. Keanu Reeves’ “feel good movie of the year” really makes viewers feel good!