Director Tom Shadyac brings the film “Brian Banks,” the true story of a wrongfully convicted man, to the big screen. In the film, Brian Banks, played by Aldis Hodge, is a former high school football star whose college career was ruined because of a rape allegation.
The movie begins at the ending scene and is used as a representation of Banks’ youth and adoration of football. Rather than jump into the rape allegation and Banks’ prison time, their effects on Banks are laid out instead.
The first big block for Banks outside of prison is the parole process. His parole officer, Mick Randolph, played by Dorian Missick, is automatically placed in a villainous role, always impeding Banks’ route to normalcy.
Part of Banks’ parole is to stay 250 feet away from parks and this limitation comes to a head while he is on a date. This moment in the film does a great job of showing viewers the difficulties Banks still faces even while deemed free. This is Banks’ driving force and it clearly sets up his desire to get his conviction overturned.
The outline of the film is solid, allowing the viewer to tag along on Banks’ journey. As we do not begin immediately with the rape allegation, the film is able to strongly insert these flashbacks a little further into the film. Although the curiosity of the viewer is there, the inclusion of the flashbacks feels purposeful rather than just to inform the viewer.
The movie feels cheap at times, a surprise considering the all-star lineup it was able to snag. Morgan Freeman and Sherri Shepard both offer star quality to the movie but they still can’t save the film from those devaluing moments. This feeling is consistent within the screenwriting and a bit of the production as well. This doesn’t completely ruin the movie, but it pulls the viewer out of the world it is trying so hard to create.
Kennisha Rice, played by Xosha Roquemore, is the woman who claimed Banks raped her. She is not centered in the movie, allowing the struggles Banks faces to be at the forefront. When Rice does have scenes, it is very hard to ignore the stereotypes the film begins to heavily lean into. She seems to be uneducated and socially inept and fills the role of an angry black woman; this stereotype is notorious in its portrayal of black women as aggressive and illogical.
Rice has an odd accent and speaks slowly in an attempt to highlight her lack of intelligence. She’s sexually driven, shown when she contacts Banks and explains her physical desire for him. Her mother is rude and seems to be in control of Rice’s narrative of being raped by Banks. In these moments, it’s hard to determine what is real and what has been dramatized for the sake of the film.
Hodge offers an amazing performance and his acting is enough to save the movie from its shortcomings. His abilities are on full display in a scene where Banks is placed in solitary confinement. Banks’ mental health deteriorates completely in this one scene, a testament to the harsh reality many imprisoned people face. Symptoms of mental illness can come to the surface when inmates are forced into solitary confinement.
“Brian Banks” is not an amazing movie, but any viewer can find some joy within it. The storyline and Hodge’s acting is more than enough to keep viewers engaged.