starring Billy Bob Thornton, Derek Luke, Jay Hernandez, Lucas Black
screenplay by David Aaron Cohen and Peter Berg, based on the book Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H.G. Bissinger
directed by Peter Berg
by Walter Chaw Turning the microscope on the reptile hearts and minds of small-town sports culture, Peter Berg's Friday Night Lights is so alive with seething energy and meanness that it emerges as one of the better sports films on the short list of good sports films. It's what the Omaha Beach sequence in Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan is to Oliver Stone's Platoon: an evolution by way of devolution that erases the veneer, such as there is, prettifying violent confrontation, becoming in the process the unadorned engine to which Stone's ultimately featherweight Any Given Sunday aspired. It finds Lucas Black (as star quarterback Mike Winchell) reunited with Sling Blade co-star Billy Bob Thornton (playing his coach, Gary Gaines), with the mental disability roles reversed ("There's something wrong with my head," Winchell complains) but the peek under the Rockwell covers at insular, provincial psychosis transplanted intact. Friday Night Lights is a work of sociology, a film that not only understands the all-American obsession with packaged violence and the cult of machismo, but is also a clearer barometer of the kind of sublimation of fear and loathing in these United States than any gross of pre-election political documentaries. Our country's in trouble because these brutal idiots can vote--and there are more of them than there are the rest of us.