Keanu Reeves hits a homerun with 'Hardball'


From the director of “Varsity Blues” comes a heart wrenching tale of a group for hardball isn’t just a game, but a way of life.

Keanu Reeves stars as Conor O’Neill, an aimless grifter who makes his money scalping tickets and gambling on sports games. After a few badly placed bets land him in serious trouble, O’Neill turns to his friend Jimmy Fleming (Mike McGlone) for assistance. Fleming agrees to help on one condition: O’Neill has to take over as coach of a youth baseball team.

Suddenly, O’Neill is thrust into a world where getting home alive is more important than covering the spread. After a disastrous first game, he starts molding the boys into a real team. In return, they teach him a lesson or two about his own life. With a little practice and a star pitcher, the team starts earning their pizza after the game.

Reeves delivers a great performance, as does co-star Diane Lane (as the kids’ teacher, Miss Wilkes.) Lane’s acting is restricted only by her limited screen time. However, it’s DeWayne Warren, making his film debut, who really steals the show as the delightful G-Baby, too young to play but too cute to send home.

Based on the book “Hardball: A Season in the Projects,” by Daniel Coyle, director Brian Robbins scores another sports hit. Instead of the rowdy high school football boys in “Varsity Blues,” Robbins presents a group of pre-teens for whom baseball is their only refuge against the crime and despair waiting outside the ball diamond.

Billed as “The Bad News Bears” meets “Dangerous Minds,” “Hardball” is an honest glimpse into inner-city Chicago. A montage of baseball and bookies inter-spliced with little league politics, the film portrays the rather serious message that the most important thing in life is showing up.

With music by the Notorious B.I.G. and a cameo by Sammy Sosa thrown in for good measure, “Hardball” hits a home run.

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