Hardball is a 2001 American sports comedy-drama film directed by Brian Robbins and starring Keanu Reeves, Diane Lane and D. B. Sweeney. The screenplay by John Gatins is based on the book Hardball: A Season in the Projects by Daniel Coyle. The original music score is composed by Mark Isham. The film was released on September 14, 2001, topping the box office the weekend after the September 11 attacks.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Brian Robbins|
|Produced by||Tina Nides|
|Screenplay by||John Gatins|
|Based on||Hardball: A Season in the Projects|
by Daniel Coyle
D. B. Sweeney
|Music by||Mark Isham|
|Edited by||Ned Bastille|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|September 14, 2001|
|Box office||$44.1 million|
Conor O'Neill (Keanu Reeves) is a gambler who secretly bets $6,000 on his dead father's account and is now severely in debt with two bookies. In order to repay the debts, he is told by a corporate friend that he must coach a baseball team of troubled African-American fifth grade kids from Chicago's ABLA housing projects in exchange for $500 each week, for ten weeks.
Worried only about getting his $500 check, Conor shows up at the baseball field to a rag tag bunch of trash-talking, street-wise, inner city kids who live in the projects. Some of the players include: Andre Ray Peetes (Bryan Hearne), a smart-mouthed jokester, captain of the team who knows about all the players and forms a strong bond with Conor; Kofi Evans (Michael Perkins), a troubled, angry boy who has a rivalry with Andre, a quick temper, but is the best player on the team; Jefferson Albert Tibbs (Julian Griffith), a sweet, overweight, asthmatic player; Jamal (Michael B. Jordan), Andre's best friend and the oldest on the team; Miles Penfield II (A. Delon Ellis, Jr.), the brilliant pitcher who listens to The Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘Big Poppa’ to pitch well; and Jarius "G-Baby" Evans (DeWayne Warren), Kofi's much younger brother who is too young to play so he becomes Conor's assistant.
Conor's efforts are hindered from the onset by the fact that he does not have nine kids to make up the team—Jamal’s mother altered his birth certificate to be younger and G-Baby is sad because he is far too young to play. The older kids tell Conor it is because their teacher, Elizabeth "Sister" Wilkes (Diane Lane), is making several boys finish a book report. Conor visits the teacher, but his life is threatened repeatedly by his bookies for not paying his gambling debts. He is visited by the mother of two boys and her sister's son that are allowed to play in exchange for his tutoring them.
Conor works to get the team to support each other and stop trash-talking each other's bad plays; but the team nevertheless loses its first game 16–1, which fosters hostility between the players. Conor brings them together by buying them pizza (trading sports tickets for the pizza) and leads the team to win their second game 9–3. The team starts to come together as Conor tries to kindle a romance with Wilkes.
Conor risks everything and makes a $12,000 bet with a new bookie to cover the $12,000 debt he owes to the other bookies. His stress, already high from his gambling debts, runs higher at the baseball field because Jamal is pulled from playing after a competing coach questions the boy's age and Myles can't wear headphones while he pitches. Conor takes offense to the league president's threat to be removed, after he voices his objection to his team having to wear ratty T-shirts while the other teams have full uniforms. In protest, he announces it was his last game which draws dissension and resentment from his players.
Conor barely wins his $12,000 bet, pays off all his debts, and is pressured into making another bet for $24,000 using his $12,000 winnings. Conor connects with the kids and finds it harder to leave than he thought. He surprises them with second row seats (behind Sammy Sosa's dugout) to a major league game. He stops gambling; his relationship with Wilkes grows; he gets new uniforms for the players (sponsored by one of his bookies); and he assumes a fatherly role in leading the team to the championship game (called "going to the 'ship" by the boys).
Just after Conor drops the kids off at home after winning the pre-championship game, G-Baby is struck and killed by a stray bullet and Kofi has to hold him as he dies. Conor wants to forfeit the game, but Andre and especially Kofi, rallies the team together. The end credits indicate that the kids won the championship game.
- Keanu Reeves as Conor O'Neill
- Diane Lane as Elizabeth Wilkes
- John Hawkes as Ticky Tobin
- Bryan C. Hearne as Andre Ray Peetes
- Michael Perkins as Kofi Evans
- DeWayne Warren as Jarius "G-Baby" Evans
- Julian Griffith as Jefferson Albert Tibbs
- Michael B. Jordan as Jamal
- A. Delon Ellis Jr. as Miles Pennfield II
- Brian M. Reed as Raymond "Ray Ray" Bennet
- Kristopher Lofton as Clarence
- Mike McGlone as Jimmy Fleming
- Graham Beckel as Duffy
- D. B. Sweeney as Matt Hyland
- Sammy Sosa as Himself
- Sterling "Steelo" Brim as Sterling
- Wa-King Conner as Rodney Harris
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 41% based on 113 reviews, with an average rating of 4.72/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Although Hardball contains some touching moments, they are not enough to transcend the sports formula." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 48 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.
- "Hardball (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
- "Hardball (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
- "Hardball Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
- "Weekend Box Office Report: 'Hardball' Is No. 1 Soft Touch in Tough Times". hive4media.com. September 17, 2001. Archived from the original on November 1, 2001. Retrieved September 21, 2019 – via The Hollywood Reporter.
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