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Baldwin: ‘The Way Back’ bounces into cinemas

Greetings my fellow b-ball-frenzied cinephiles of Winchester!

March is upon us and will be caught up in the madness of college basketball hysteria this month offers up every year before we know it.

With this madness of tournament play we are always introduced to my favorite specimen for deep analysis and observation: the underdog.

I champion the underdog. Why? Because everyone has counted them out before the tournament has even started.

Today’s feature is a tale of redemption and rebirth in this basketball underdog sports drama which bounces into cinemas this week, “The Way Back” (2020).

Jack Cunningham, played by Ben “Armageddon” Affleck was a high school basketball star who walked away from the game, abandoning his talent and bright future, which was cushioned by a scholarship to the University of Kansas.

Years later, Jack, now an alcoholic, reluctantly accepts a coaching job at his alma mater.

This appears to be Jack’s last shot at redemption by mentoring his struggling underdog of a team to never give up all the while learning to control his demons and rediscover his own self-worth.

“The Way Back” was directed by Gavin “Pride and Glory” O’Connor with a screenplay by O’ Connor and Brad “Run All Night” Ingelsby.

Al “Night School” Madrigal, Michaela “Transparent” Watkins and Janina “True Blood” Gavankar also star to support Affleck.

This role is personal for Affleck as his own personal demon have been no secret over the years.

Affleck comes across in “The Way Back” as truly being sorry for his past and the sincerity, and struggles of Jack Cunningham are those of Ben Affleck up on the silver screen.

“The Way Back” and Affleck have received favorable reviews and it is not a bad flick by any means, but it is a cliche sports drama with all of the necessary tropes we have come to expect in this genre of film.

Most basketball films showcase a band of misfit players (“Coach Carter,” “Glory Road,”) with a coach with a past or battling an obstacle off the court.

This is no different in “The Way Back” except that this time, Affleck is addressing the struggles of his own life without hamming it up, asking for sympathy and still fighting to sink the ball in the net at the buzzer when critics, his family, media and even Hollywood has counted him out.

Hopefully, Affleck can bounce back in more ways than one.

As a side note, the best film of this genre is “Hoosiers” (1986), enough said.

I will always root for the underdog in sport and in life.

Never underestimate the downtrodden, the “weak” or the little. They are hungrier and they have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

That hunger, drive and persistence to keep fighting is a dangerous formula for success and respect.

Keep fighting and have a film-tastic day!

Rick Baldwin is a writer, filmmaker and film/music historian. He is president of the Winchester-Clark County Film Society. Find more from Rick on Facebook. He is on Twitter @rickbaldwin79  and can be reached by email at rickbaldwiniii@hotmail.com.