Hardball is a 2002 American dramedy film based on Daniel Coyle's book "Hardball: A Season in the Projects" that was directed by Brian Robbins & starred Keanu Reeves, Diane Lane and D.B. Sweeney.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

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 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 called "crack babies" who live in the projects, where people have to sit on the floor in their apartments to avoid stray bullets.

Conor's efforts are hindered from the onset by the fact that he does not have nine kids to make up the team—one kid, having altered his birth certificate to be younger and another kid, "G-Baby" (DeWayne Warren), who is far too young to play.

The 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 three boys 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. He 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. He 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 one of his players is pulled from playing after a competing coach questions the boy's age.

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 it would. He surprises them with second row seats (behind Sammy Sosa's dugout) to a major league game.

Conor stops gambling and 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 at home after winning the pre-championship game, G-Baby is struck and killed by a stray bullet in a gang fight which leads Conor to want to forfeit the championship game.

After an emotional funeral service, the team rallies together to win the championship game in the name of their fallen teammate.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • Keanu Reeves as Conor O'Neill
  • Diane Lane as Elizabeth Wilkes
  • D. B. Sweeney as Matt Hyland
  • John Hawkes as Ticky Tobin
  • Bryan C. Hearne as Andre Ray Peetes
  • Julian Griffith as Jefferson Albert Tibbs
  • Michael B. Jordan as Jamal
  • A. Delon Ellis Jr. as Miles Pennfield II
  • Kristopher Lofton as Clarence
  • Michael Perkins as Kofi Evans
  • Brian M. Reed as Raymond "Ray Ray" Bennet
  • DeWayne Warren as Jarius "G-Baby" Evans
  • Yung Leek as Malik "Yungin" Gholston
  • Sterling "Steelo" Brim as Sterling
  • Sammy Sosa as Himself (cameo appearance)

Production[edit | edit source]

"Hardball" was filmed from August 7th to October of 2000. The filming locations took place in Chicago, Illinois and Detroit, Michigan.

Before the film was released in 2001, posters and ads reflected the film rating as "R" before it was re-edited to dub over the kids using the "f" word. Despite quite a bit of profanity remaining, the film was released with a PG-13 rating.

Controversy[edit | edit source]

The film was based on a nonfiction novel that tracked the experience of Robert Muzikowski, a real-life youth baseball coach.

Muzikowski sued Paramount Pictures for defamation, alleging that the film inaccurately portrayed him as a down-on-his-luck gambler with suspicious ties who took on youth baseball simply to repay a debt. Muzikowski did not win his lawsuit against Paramount Pictures.

Reception[edit | edit source]

Box Office[edit | edit source]

"Hardball" debuted at #1 at the box office, grossing $9,386,342 during its opening weekend. Domestically, the film grossed $40,222,729 and also made $44,102,389 worldwide.

Critical Reception[edit | edit source]

"Hardball" received mixed reviews from critics.

On Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds a 39% rating based on 100 reviews with an average rating of 4.7\10. It was given an audience score of 70% with an average rating of 3.3\5.

According to the critics' consensus, "Although Hardball contains some touching moments, they are not enough to transcend the sports formula".

Entertainment Weekly said, "the movie is so littered with clichés of genre, as well as clichés of artifice in Reeves' pained performance, that any semblance of social reality goes foul".

Peter Travers from the Rolling Stone said that the film "takes a true story and drags it through a swamp of hyped-up Hollywood cliches".

Roger Ebert gave the film a three in a half-star rating, saying, "Hardball tells the story of a compulsive gambler whose life is turned around by a season of coaching an inner-city baseball team. That sounds like a winning formula for a movie, and it might be, if the story told us more about gambling, more about the inner city and more about coaching baseball. But it drifts above the surface of its natural subjects, content to be a genre picture. We're always aware of the formula--and in a picture based on real life, we shouldn't be".

Accolades[edit | edit source]

2002 Black Reel Awards

  • Best Soundtrack (nominated)

2002 Razzie Awards

Theatrical Trailer[edit | edit source]


Hardball (2001) Trailer

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