October 4, 1993 -- ``The Program'' looked to be another one of those standard sports films, but it turns out to be better than that. Not since ``Everybody's All American,'' which explores life after college football stardom, and ``North Dallas 40,'' which explores problems in professional football, has a football film been so well made.
The football scenes are stunning, the best I've ever seen. You can almost feel the pain of the collisions. The story portrays not only the excitement of college football, but corruption as well.
The story centers around the star quarterback (Craig Sheffer) and a talented freshman running back (Omar Epps). Sheffer is an alcoholic risk-taker who seems to have a lot of confidence but is secretly terrified of failure. Epps falls for campus beauty Halle Berry, to whom he feels he must prove himself academically.
A backup defense lineman named Lattimer (Andrew Bryniarski) uses steroids to bulk up over the summer and muscles his way into the starting lineup. Another defensive player, Alvin Mack (Duane Davis) is sure of a pro contract, but can barely read.
The coach, played by James Caan, looks the other way on Lattimer's steroid use until Lattimer attacks the daughter of a powerful alumnus, exhibiting what is known as ``roid rage.'' Caan, under immense pressure from the alumni to win, is pressured to take a player back onto his team even though the player cheated on a test and is dating his daughter. Caan's character seems ill-defined. Although he cares for his players, he seems to stand for nothing except a willingness to win at any cost.
The other characters in the film are interesting and believable. The story works well until the standard sports film ending. There aren't many surprises in this film, but it is well made and well-photographed and the football action sequences are amazingly well choreographed. It rates a B.
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