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Friday, March 6, 2020

The Way Back 2020 * * * 1/2 Stars

The Way BackDirector: Gavin O'Connor
Year: 2020
Rated R
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Ben Affleck, Al Madrigal, Michaela Watkins

Jack Cunningham (played by art imitating life suitor Ben Affleck) is a former high school star basketball player turned construction worker. Jack is also a weary alcoholic who eventually takes a job as the head b-ball coach at his former Alma mater. That's the initial rub of 2020's non-sobering and dark turned, The Way Back. It's my latest review.

Yup, I am announcing The Way Back as one of this year's best films (so far). After seeing it earlier today, I realized that not every basketball movie is completely about basketball. As Lester Burnham's desk sign painfully says, "Look Closer".

Image result for the way back 2020 movie scenesAffleck's performance as "Way Back's" lead role is probably in his top three of all time (behind O'Bannion from Dazed and Confused and Jim Young from Boiler Room). Ben's work here is raw and unflinching, a sort of flask exorcising of his own personal demons (the real-life Affleck has supposedly dealt with alcoholism for most of his adult life).

Directed by the guy responsible for The Accountant (Gavin O'Connor), shot mainly in grainy close-ups, and featuring dreary, Southern California as anything but paradise, "Way Back" is the type of film you'd get if you threw Leaving Las Vegas, 2012's Flight, and The Bad News Bears into a cinematic blender.

Gavin O'Connor fashions The Way Back as a revealing character study with just a little shred of James Naismith thrown in. His style as a filmmaker is clean and streamlined, with a twist here, a detour there, and an admission you don't quite see coming.

Image result for the way back 2020 movie scenes
Some sports flicks are predictable (Glory Road, The Fighter), some sports flicks are bland (Remember the Titans, Cinderella Man), and some sports flicks are just plain awful (The Replacements, The Waterboy). The Way Back is not in any of these categories and that's why I dug it. It's a secretive PSA for any middle aged man who can't seem to lay off the sauce. "Way Back" is also O'Connor's directorial, redemption story set to the shadowy and most dirtied-up boroughs of LA. Rating: 3 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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