Most films about high school football players usually fall into one of two categories: glossy jock romance or locker-room sex farce. This one defies the odds and scores both as decent character study and decidedly unsentimental sports melodrama. It's not only a helluva coming-of-age yarn, but also, like Paul Newman's Slapshot
, it's a bracing look at the hopes and dreams of blue-collar survivors. Tom Cruise plays a mill-town football star determined to escape the same traps that ensnared his parents. Craig T. Nelson, in a terrific villain role, is the coach who takes revenge when Cruise's ambitions drift a little too close to home. Michael Chapman, Martin Scorsese's favorite cinematographer, made his directorial debut with this gritty little winner, which benefits from being shot on location in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and which is set to a great Jennifer Warnes-Chris Thompson theme song. Lea Thompson and Christopher Penn co-star. In 1983, another Cruise vehicle had even better moves: Risky Business
. --Glenn Lovell
The only way football star Stefan Djordjevic (Tom Cruise) will avoid a life in the blast furnaces of his bleak Pennsylvania hometown is by winning a college scholarship. Even his coach (Craig T. Nelson) dreams of parlaying a winning team into a college job far away from this graveyard of the American Dream. But it's not long before the two virtually ruin each other's chances for escape and their door to the future starts to close. Lea Thompson and Christopher Penn co-star.