Movie Mayhem – Brian Banks

Brian Banks — 2019; Directed by Tom Shadyac; Starring Aldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, Melanie Liburd, Sherri Shepherd and Morgan Freeman

All you can control in life is how you respond to life.

Jerome Johnson (Morgan Freeman), from the film Brian Banks

The quote isn’t just a powerful message for the new inspirational sports drama, Brian Banks, but relates, on a much smaller scale, very well to this very review. Upon finishing my first draft, something happened and the entire review was wiped from existence. Like anyone else, I was angry at myself for not saving, and was angry at WordPress for not auto-saving and acting weird. The easy thing to do would have been to give up on the review altogether. Instead, I took a deep breath, recollected my thoughts and started anew. This has nothing on the major incidents of the film itself, however, it’s still relevant to the importance this movie’s overall message means for true happiness in life.

In this day in age, it’s hard to have a respectful debate when it comes to political topics. One side or the other is eventually going to call the other a racist or give up and walk off in an angry huff. It’s why I don’t like to discuss politics often; it’s exhausting and in most cases pointless when you know the other side of the debate will never have an open mind and relies on emotion to make their argument. I hate that the film is making me get political in my review, but it’s a film everyone should see, as it takes a respectful approach to a very sensitive topic.

Brian Banks (Aldis Hodge) was a victim of the #MeToo movement before it was even a thing. A high school football star with a booming career path that would eventually land him in the NFL, Brian’s dream vanished when a fellow student (Xosha Roquemore) accused him of rape. After being somewhat railroaded into copping a plea by the judicial system, Banks spent six years in prison and another five on probation. After a new law forces him to wear an ankle monitor that keeps him from playing football, Banks goes to Justin Brooks (Greg Kinnear) at the California Innocence Project to help clear his name before his probation expires and he becomes a registered sex offender for life.

Director Tom Shadyac conveys both the issues plaguing the justice system and they way in which society handles these types of accusations in a way that doesn’t demonize anyone. Yes, the girl is set up to be the villain for ruining this young man’s life, and his lawyer and the judge did not help matters at all, however, by focusing on the idea that life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, and it’s the way you deal with life when bad things happen that make you happy, Shadyac strays away from vilifying those people and those systems. The girl was young and naive, and things got out of control. It should never have happened, but it did.

As the #MeToo movement began to grow steam, innocence seemed to became a lot less important in the mind of the public at large. Society was forced to believe that someone was guilty until proven innocent instead of innocent until proven guilty, which is not how the justice system was created. No one should ever take someone’s accusations for granted, especially when it comes to sexual misconduct and assault, however, we also cannot demonize someone without evidence.

Banks was considered guilty by everyone involved without any evidence to prove it. And because no one wanted to fight for him, he became a victim of the system, wherein innocent people are found guilty and guilty people walk free. It’s not perfect, but when we, as a society, begin to believe that everyone is automatically guilty no matter what the facts may prove otherwise, that’s when justice becomes nonexistent.

Shadyac takes time out in the film to look at the other side of the coin by introducing a character (Melanie Liburd) that was a victim of rape but was ignored by everyone. It’s a great juxtaposition for what happened with Banks, though I do wish Shadyac could have found a way to explore this side of the argument more deeply. We’re told about the incident and then it’s washed into the background without much fanfare, which does the message of the film a slight disservice.

What solidifies the message are the actors themselves. Hodge does a fantastic job as Banks, showing us his deep-rooted anger toward the girl who ruined his career as well as his strength in using the words of his mentor in prison (an uncredited Morgan Freeman) to see the positive in his situation, let his anger go and continue to move forward, despite his circumstances. Happiness starts in the mind.

Greg Kinnear is no stranger to inspirational true stories, and why should he be? He’s great in them. He doesn’t disappoint in Brian Banks as the founder of the California Innocence Project, who continually pushes Banks away because he knows the case is going to lose in court due to lack of new evidence. With Banks’s tenacity and the drive from his team, though, he eventually turns his thinking around and does what he can to find a way to give Banks back his dreams.

It’s easy for us as people to vilify someone for doing something so egregious to another human being. However, doing so without any evidence is just as egregious. There are plenty of real victims of rape, sexual misconduct and assault that are ignored, but there are also plenty of people who are victims of lies and deceit. Not all people are honest, good people; not even those who claim to be victims. It’s hard to know when someone is telling the truth or lying in situations like these, and until we all embrace the idea of innocent until proven guilty, the justice system we so deeply want to put our faith into will never be fixed. As a society, we need to do better; we need to listen, but also keep an open mind.

Until that happens, we will never be free.

My Grade: A

Bonus Reviews:

I’m sure that if you’ve watched, or are a fan of, the television series, Dora and the Lost City of Gold would make much more sense; but to the laymen who has never seen the show, this live-action adaptation seems more a muddled mess, unsure of what it truly wants to be — a grounded version of a cartoon, or a cartoon come to life. B

Based on the type of film The Art of Racing In the Rain is, we all know the dog isn’t going to make it out of it alive, so it was odd to see the lead up to this incident in the first five minutes. However, if this makes you think you won’t need plenty of tissues by the end, you’d be sorely mistaken as the film takes a much different turn than you might expect. A

Next week, new movies include 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, Good Boys, Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Blinded By the Light. If you would like to see a review for one of these, or any other film out next week, please respond in the comments below.

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