H.G. Bissinger's best seller about the 1988 high school football championships in Texas gets a heart-pounding big-screen treatment that captures all the action of a tumultuous season while showing the emotional toll on the players. Billy Bob Thornton gives an understated performance as coach Gary Gaines, whose small-town Permian Panthers are pursuing their fifth state title; his ability to withstand community pressure shores up a group of teens who face trouble at home and/or a future without many prospects. Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher) stands out as the star running back, ably assisted by Jay Hernandez, Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund, and country musician Tim McGraw. Peter Berg (The Rundown) directed, though the 100-odd football plays were choreographed by his second-unit director, former USC offensive lineman Allan Graf. PG-13, 117 min.
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