All the Right Moves (1983)
“He had a dream but the dream had begun to sour…busting to break out he had to make…”
Director: Michael Chapman
Cast: Tom Cruise, Lea Thompson, Craig T. Nelson
Synopsis: A high school footballer desperate for a scholarship and his headstrong coach clash in a dying Pennsylvania steel town.
Chiefly notable today for the fact that a very young Tom Cruise (Jack Reacher, Oblivion) and Lea Thompson (Back to the Future, J. Edgar) play tonsil hockey in the buff, All the Right Moves is a strictly by-the-numbers school football drama that benefits from authentic Pennsylvanian locations and some decent performances from the two leads.
Cruise plays Stefan Djordjevic, hot-shot school football player, who is trying to earn himself a shot at becoming a technical engineer on the back of a football scholarship. Djordjevic is 5′ 10″ so I suppose Cruise, at 5′ 7″, is technically miscast but he puts in a credible performance and gives early notice of his superstar potential in a role that requires a certain degree of sensitivity. Lea Thompson is his girlfriend Lisa, a bright and talented musician who knows that, by pushing Stefan to achieve his goals, she runs a very great risk of losing him forever. The one thing that stands in Djordjevic’s way is his pushy coach (Craig T. Nelson) with whom he enjoys an antagonistic relationship.
The grim steel mill town in which the film is set is a place from which everyone is trying to escape. With its smoking chimneys and fiery furnaces it’s depicted as a kind of hell on earth, an image compounded by its population of beer-swilling, pool-playing locals whose lives are so empty that the loss of a crucial school football game results in a dead chicken hanging from the coach’s porch and the walls of his house and car scrawled with graffiti. Everyone wants to escape, but few do — mostly because of their own stupidity, it has to be said. Stafan’s best friend, Brian (a slim-line Chris Penn — Reservoir Dogs) blows his chance by impregnating his cheerleader girlfriend, while team-mate Salvucci (Paul Carafotes) dabbles in a spot of armed robbery with predictable consequences. These are only incidental situations, given no real dramatic consequence by writer Michael Kane, and thus missing a chance to develop a more complete picture of the lives of quiet desperation led by the residents of Ampipe. By focusing so closely on Stefan, the film leaves us in no doubt that he will emerge successful, and this weakens the film considerably by removing any element of suspense or anxiety. The ending is particularly weak and unconvincing. Key characters undergo abrupt reversals of opinion held throughout the film’s running time simply so that the pre-determined happy ending can be reached.
Worth only watching for decent performances from a talented – and in many cases under-rated – cast, and a chance to see a weak-chinned Cruise before he became a mega-star.
(Reviewed 12th November 2005)