Brian Banks (2019)

Brian Banks featuredDirected by: Tom Shadyac. Starring: Aldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, Sherri Shepard. Runtime: 1h 39 min. Released: August 9, 2019.

(This review contains spoilers)

A football player’s dreams in the NFL are halted when he is falsely accused of rape and spends six years in prison. He gets released and fights to clear his name within an unjust system as he tries to get back into football shape.

Aldis Hodge’s performance as real-life football player Brian Banks is the highlight here. The film portrays the crime sensitively, and Hodge captures the embarrassment and anger of wanting to clear his name well because he is a registered sex offender. By the end of the film he’s so inspiring and Hodge fills Banks’ shoes expertly.

It’s fascinating when Banks is released and contacts Justin Brooks (Greg Kinnear) of the California Innocence Project. It’s a unique film in terms of false imprisonment movies as the character usually tries to clear their name from behind bars. Banks does this out of prison and contacts Brooks because he’d be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life if he doesn’t clear his name.

I also think it’s fascinating watching the film not be contained to Brian’s character behind bars as he tries to clear his name himself. Though, he still might as well be in prison because of the sex offender tag – which doesn’t let him play organized football since he can’t go near a school or parks.

Greg Kinnear is also good as Brooks who fights for Banks because he legitimately believes him. I like Sherri Shepard as Brian’s mother Leomia, fighting for her son because she also knows he’s innocent. I don’t think I’ve seen any films with Shepard, but she’s strong in this supporting role.

Brian Banks article
Aldis Hodge in Brian Banks. (IMDb)

Some of the most effective scenes in the film are when people see him differently for his conviction. Brian also spends time with a woman named Karina (Melanie Liburd), who walks away when Brian tells her about his conviction. She comes back into play later, but these scenes are effective. Knowing that Brian did not commit this crime, it’s heartbreaking throughout when everyone looks at him like he’s guilty.

That’s the reflection of the unjust, tragic system that has failed Banks and so many others. It’s also very unfortunate to watch when he gets terrible advice from his lawyer.  The reasoning behind the false accusation is also sickening, as her words give him a prison sentence and have an impact on his career as he was an up-and-coming star. It’s tragic in this aspect.

I won’t spoil further how his story plays out, but don’t Google his name before watching this since it’s a true story. I love this film and think it will be under-seen (it currently has 1,788 votes on IMDb), but it’s good drama directed by Tom Shadyac (whose filmography includes Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Liar Liar).

This film also just hits two specific films I love: False accusation films and sports films. It brings the strength of both those sub-genres – like the courtroom drama and detective work, uncovering stuff that people missed of false accusation movies, as well as the inspiring and triumphant part of a sports film. I think it’s a special film. It’s not perfect film as some of the dialogue and direction is standard, but it’s special because of Brian Banks’ story. His story is great and so is the story of the California Innocence Project.

Score: 75/100

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