Director: Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin
Featuring: Bill Courtney, O.C. Brown, Montrail “Money” Brown, Chavis Daniels
Undefeated shows a human being – Coach Bill Courtney – who encompasses and projects attributes all of us desire in some respect. It also shows that the stories we hear about inner-city life are in fact true.
This is a 113 minute documentary about a coach who took on a high school football program that should have been cut years ago. Some may categorize this as a documentarian version of The Blind Side. Some may even draw comparisons to Hoop Dreams. Yours truly we’ll just say that this is a documentary version of life…that some of us will never see or experience.
Now although its thematic messages are worth hearing, the storytelling isn’t all that riveting. Maybe because it’s too obvious. But hey, if that’s the way this tale went down – or how it was edited – then who are we to judge? (Yet, I might).
Bill Courtney is a white family man who undertook the challenge as a volunteer coach to turn around a ragged and disobedient high school football team in Memphis, Tennessee. While running his own lumber company, the majority of his time is trying to keep his players on the up-n-up. Three players are featured here and each of them has their own unique issues to deal with.
Montrail “Money” Brown is the guy who wants to get it right despite dealing with family issues that constantly dwell on his success in the classroom and on the football field. O.C. Brown is a player that has the talents to make it into a Division I program but his academics are piss-poor. And then there’s Chavis Daniels, the poster boy for everything that is wrong with this program, as his lack of respect for everyone gets him in trouble not only with the school system, but with the law as well.
Courtney realizes that this journey will not be pleasant. And he, himself, begins to deal with his own struggles, stemming from managing his time between his work-in-progress players, his business, and his own respective family. Seeing these dynamics and wondering whether or not the inspirational guy can pull through is what keeps your attention. Plus, seeing the few players that are sincerely trying to do something with their lives, in these compromising situations, can have you silently rooting for them to beat the odds.
Watching this presentation though, something seems off; almost as if there are ellipses in the storytelling segments. The arc of the story is exactly what you expect it to be: Crappy situation (opening), struggling solutions (middle portion), and glorious fairytale result (ending). Did it really happen just like that? If it did, bravo! But there seems to be some pertinent background info missing at a few key parts.
Overall, Undefeated is more of a societal study; which provides evidence that with an enormous amount of caring and dedication from a few individuals, one’s seemingly hopeless path can indeed be changed. Mechanically speaking, the execution of this documentary is decent enough to get the job done of portraying that theme.
By Joe Belcastro – Member of the Florida Film Critics Circle