In the era of #MeToo, this is the other side of the narrative.
Brian Banks (a bulked-up Aldis Hodge) grew up in Long Beach just
loving football. He was such a
high school star that at age 16 , USC had already talked to him about a
full ride scholarship. And
then his whole world came crashing down.
It was during a summer school session where he happened to meet a
classmate, Kennisha Rice (Xosha Roquemore), in the lobby.
He followed her down a hallway past several classrooms, and then
engaged in some heavy petting with her at the bottom of the stairs.
Yep, you guessed it. Immediately
it's a “he said, she said” situation.
She claims she was raped. He
claims they didn't even have sex. The
authorities believed her.
Brian Banks is arrested and incarcerated.
His court-appointed attorney recommends a plea deal:
in exchange for dropping the sodomy and kidnapping charge, he'll
plead “no contest” to the rape. He
was told he'd get probation. But
the Judge sentenced him to six years jail time.
At least at Juvenile Detention, he meets a sympathetic man who
tries to help him with his “Why me?” rage, but soon he's transferred
out of Juvy to the men's prison. There,
he witnesses a prisoner shiving another one, and to escape the
intimidation tactics, he fights back.
He's charged with assault and put in solitary for two months.
And there, in between hallucinations, he has his epiphany:
the only thing he can change is his own attitude.
When he's finally released, he's on a tight parole regimen,
including wearing an ankle brace locator at all times, and also not
venturing outside the county, or anywhere near a school or a park (he's
had to register as a sex offender). When
he tries to find a job, he's turned down as soon as they find out he's a
convicted felon. Then he hears
about the California Innocence Project, begun by Justin Brooks (Greg
Kinnear). No, his liberation is not immediate---it takes many fits and
starts and legal manuevers, including an (inadmissable) admission from her
that she fabricated the story. But Brian Banks finally receives what he's
wanted for 11 years: exoneration.
Now he's free to chase his NFL dream, but of course he never played
college ball, and he hasn't stepped on any kind of football field in 11
years. He gets an invite from
an old coach to training camp, but he doesn't make it.
Undeterred, he trains hard during the next year, and eventually he
does make an NFL team: theAtlanta Falcons.
(Though they show clips of Banks making a couple of tackles in a
preseason game, he was actually cut before the season started.)
A few awkward questions: if
this is a true story, why did it win the Audience Award at the Los Angeles
Film Festival for the Best Fiction Feature?
And why make up character named Kennisha Rice when the public
record states that her name is Wanetta Gibson?
And why leave out the part that the Long Beach Unified School
District is countersuing her for the punitive damages she won against
them, in light of her recanting her accusation? And why is Morgan
Freeman's name curiously absent from the film's publicity, when he plays
the important role of the mentor at Juvy?
Perhaps because of recent sexual harrassment allegations against
him, and the irony is too great?
It's a curiously awkward film, but with heartfelt sentimentality.
This film probably won't get much traction right now, because it's
on the unpopular side of the current cultural narrative.
Like Brian Banks' personal experience, his film will probably not
receive a sympathetic public hearing for at least a decade.
And in the intervening years there will be many more competing