“The Express” is one of those hidden treasures of sports films. It could be the greatest one of them all.
The movie is true life story of the greatest college football running back of all time. Ernie Davis came from humble beginnings to defy ideals, prejudices and leave an inspirational legacy. Davis played for the University of Syracuse OrangeMen in ????. He took the university to a national championship after defeating the Texas Longhorns. He was the first black man to win the coveted Heisman Trophy.
The movie zigs and zags through Ernie’s life story kind of like the player on the field. With each hit, a little controversy spills out. Director Gary Fleder tells his story with passion and the almost three-hour yarn rarely turns off key. Dennis Quaid is Ernie’s couch and he plays the man carefully. And that is where this movie really starts to flounder. It is just too careful, too complimentary and too confident. It never really digs deep into when Ernie Davis was. It tells the story it’s inspirational, tragic and entertaining but never goes for the jugular.
The word “could” is a funny thing. It’s an off-handed compliment and sometimes is used to inspire hope. And other times it just kicks you in the gonads. This could have been the greatest sports movie of all time if it would have delivered some surprises. Everything is here. Dennis Quaid. Gary Fleder’s excellent direction. A solid script. Bright newcomer Rob Brown. The always watchable Charles S Dutton. Oh, what could have been.
3 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer