Projections - Movie Reviews



To pay off his gambling debts, Conor O'Neill (Keanu Reeves) agrees to coach an inner-city baseball team.

He's a compulsive gambler who bets with one bookie in order to pay off his losses with another.  Beaten up and thrown out of the seedy sports bar where he hangs out, Conor goes to a friend who works as an investment banker to ask for a loan.

His friend agrees to pay him $500 -- a week to take over his coaching a bunch of kids from the Chicago projects.  $500 is the same amount he recently worked out to pay off his bookie and prevent his legs from being broken.  What are the chances of that!

Conor resents being out on the field with the kids, and makes it plain that he's only marking his time until he can bet on the next Chicago Bulls game.

He lives in a cheap walk-up and appears to have but one friend, who also shares his interest in gambling and scalping sports tickets.  But, little else is known about him.  Like did he ever have a real job or does he have any family.

Diane Lane, who always brings a reality to her characters, plays Elizabeth, school teacher to a number of Conor's players.  She and Conor have a sweet romance that builds slowly.

The kids are foul-mouthed and a little rough around the edges, but for the most part they get along with one another.  Their neighborhood gives them a sense of survival.  Every time they leave practice and its close to dark, they have to guard from bullies, muggings and stray bullets.

The kids are given individual personalities and we get to care about each of them.  There's the overweight kid with asthma, the kid who is too young to play, but just wants to be part of the team, and the kid with the chip on his shoulder.

Reeves does an equally good job portraying both an overwrought, heavy drinking and gambler, and a coach who actually comes to care for his young charges.

Young kids are precluded because of the tough guy language from the kids and some gang violence, but older kids and their parents should find Hardball an entertaining film.


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