Every so often on Facebook, I’ll come across a meme that highlights a particular injustice that never made national news. The story of Brian Banks, a promising football prodigy whose life was ruined by a false rape, is one of those stories. Bleecker Street Pictures and director Tom Shadyac bring the story to life in Brian Banks, starring Aldis Hodge in the titular role.
Written by Dough Atchison, Brian Banks opens with Banks already out of jail and living with his mother as a registered sex offender. Eleven years prior, while in summer school, Banks made out with a classmate Kennisha Rice (Xosha Roquemore). When Brian hears teachers coming, he quickly leaves, which results in the scorned Kennisha accusing Brian of rape.
Brian makes the mistake of taking a plea deal and spends six years in prison. Frustrated with his luck, Brian decides to reach out to Justin Brooks (Greg Kinnear), founder of the California Innocence Project, to clear his name and make it to the NFL. I knew the basics of the Bank’s story; however, as a fan of biopics, I wanted to wait until the film was released to get a full representation of the story.
Tom Shadyac makes a return to narrative features after an eleven-year hiatus. He generally handles the tone and structure of a drama quite well. I commend scriptwriter Doug Atchison for choosing to show Brian already at his lowest when the film begins, and we get to watch Brian turn his life around. I must also give credit to the cast for going with a semi unknown for the role. Having an A-lister in the lead role may have ended up hurting the film.
Hodge, in the lead role, continues to impress with his acting. I’ve followed Hodge’s work since his debut in Die Hard with a Vengeance. Hodge, who is known primarily for his scene-stealing supporting work, is excellent as the lead. Hopefully, this is the film that opens more doors for him.
Kinnear also does a great job as Justin Brooks, founder of the California Innocence Project. His repertoire with Banks and hesitation to initially take the case never comes off as mean or as a lawyer who doesn’t care. Instead, he’s a man who knows the legal system and just how broken it truly is.
Sherri Sheppard, Melanie Liburd, and Morgan Freeman all provide notable supporting work in their roles of Brian’s mother, love interest, and teacher. Sheppard portrays the loving mother with ease, while Liburd’s portrayal of a woman willing to take a chance on Brian despite his past is bittersweet. Morgan Freeman can generally make any movie better with his commanding speaking voice, so it’s always good to see him on screen.
I generally enjoyed Brian Banks, however similar to most true to most true stories, the film does feel like a Lifetime movie on the big screen. As the audience, we know where the film’s story for Brian is going, and we also know he will get his happy ending. The strength of Brian Banks lies in the star-making performance of Aldis Hodge.
Brian Banks won’t win any awards, and sadly the film will fall into obscurity in the coming months. However, I do recommend it for those who enjoy stories of overcoming adversity and fans of true stories.