It’s hard to imagine being 16 with your entire future ahead and because someone accuses you of something you didn’t do, your life changes forever. Based on a true story, that’s exactly what happened to Brian Banks (Aldis Hodge Straight Outta Compton).
He was a talented linebacker at a Long Beach, CA high school, when after sneaking off with a female student during summer school, she accuses him of kidnapping and rape. Brian had been dreaming of being picked up by the NFL as, scouts and coaches were showing up to watch him play. When he’s arrested, he can hardly believe what is happening to him.
Brian is tried as an adult, His lawyer, who appears to be more interested in getting to her next client than she is giving good advice to the scared kid she has in front of her, convinces him to plead “no contest”. The lawyer promises no jail time, but the judge sentences him to 6 years in prison.
The story spans ten years, and Hodge portrays the roller coaster of emotions his character is experiencing, with real conviction. When he finally gets out of jail, he realizes his nightmare isn’t over. He has years of parole ahead of him and that entails registering as a sex offender — which means he no longer can play football as he can’t be near a school, a college, a playground or park.
He turns to the California Innocence Project to help him get on with his life. He hounds the head of the Project, Attorney Justin Brooks (played by Greg Kinnear, who brings just the right amount of energy and passion to the role) with phone calls and letters until he is persuaded to help get Brian’s conviction overturned.
Tom Shadyac (Ace Ventura) directs an uplifting, involving drama. The story is compelling and leaves you more aware of the limitations of our legal system. Sherri Shepherd is good as Brian’s loving mother, and Kinnear, as always, gives a solid performance. However, its Hodge who is really impressive. Even when he’s had enough and loses his temper, he dials back just a bit and you can see he’s trying to cope with overwhelming emotion. I’m glad I got to know this actor a little better.