Photo Credit / Bleeker Street
Film Distribution / Bleeker Street
Runtime 99 minutes.
This is the amazingly accurate tale of football player Brian Banks (Aldis Hodge) who had signed a letter of intent with USC while at Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, California in 2002. However, he was accused by Kennisha Rice (Xosha Roquemore) of a rape he neither committed nor attempted and agreed to a plea deal that sent him to prison. The woman who accused him is actually named Wanetta Gibson; her name was changed for the movie.
After he is released from prison he is placed on a strict probation, having to wear a detector on his ankle so he goes to Justin Brooks (Greg Kinnear, one of today’s more under-appreciated actors), who runs the California Innocence Project, to try to get his conviction reversed. This is a problem for two reasons. First is that he pled guilty, and the second is that he has already been released from prison. The movie does a terrific job in showing the problems and how they are dealt with.
The two actresses who really shine are Roquemore as his hateful accuser and Monique Grant, who plays Kennisha’s mother. I would give them both Best Supporting Actress nominations, even though Grant is only in a couple of scenes.
Banks is an executive producer of the film so, unlike The Blind Side (2009), about black football player Michael Oher which was a big hit but out of which Oher wasn’t paid a cent, Banks should profit by this one.
One place where the movie falters is in the way it does not emphasize the terrible legal representation he received from his first attorney. She apparently led him to believe that there was a deal that if he pled nolo contendre to the charge he would receive probation, but that’s not what happened. The movie is silent on whether the lawyer was double-crossed by the judge or the prosecutor or if she was just lazy. The movie would be better if it zeroed in on the lawyer, the prosecutor, and the judge and made it clear who was the evil person here. Clearly, someone acted improperly; who?
Directed by Tom Shadyac from a script by Doug Atchison, the acting is very good throughout. It is gut-wrenching to watch the unfairness Banks endured and Hodge’s performance is amazingly true to life. This is one of those films that will stay with you for a long time.