Lisa Schwarzbaum
September 21, 2001 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Hardball

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG-13
runtime
106 minutes
Wide Release Date
09/14/01
performer
Diane Lane, Keanu Reeves, John Hawkes, Mike McGlone, D.B. Sweeney
director
Brian Robbins
distributor
Paramount Pictures
author
John Gatins
genre
Comedy, Sports, Drama
We gave it a D

In The Gift, Keanu Reeves tore into the role of a violent wife abuser with gusto. Unrepentant aggression had replaced his usual Zen-zombie affect, and the change of style looked great on an actor who, in a continuing effort to scruff up his own beauty, has made a career of inhabiting characters for whom heroism is a demand, not a choice: the cop in Speed, the football player in The Replacements, the candidate for manly rehab in Sweet November.

In Hardball, Reeves plays Conor O’Neill, another weak-spined specimen (he’s got gambling issues) who becomes a better man in spite of himself. This corny life-affirmer about one white guy’s spiritual redemption at the small hands of black kids on an inner-city baseball team is loosely based on the real experiences of writer Daniel Coyle, who coached in Chicago’s infamous Cabrini-Green projects. But the movie is so littered with cliches of genre, as well as cliches of artifice in Reeves’ pained performance, that any semblance of social reality goes foul. D

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