Arts & Leisure

“The Way Back” takes surprising path

BEN AFFLECK stars as an alcoholic high school basketball coach in “The Way Back.”

By Jim Tortolano

“The Way Back” starts off as a stereotypical sports hero movie and then takes an abrupt turn in the fourth quarter that somewhat redeems the effort.

Ben Affleck stars as Jack Cunningham, a dedicated alcoholic and former high school basketball star who abandoned roundball after high school and later, sobriety, after a family tragedy.

After another 9,000 cans of cheap beer, he is miraculously approached with the offer of coaching his old high school’s boys’ basketball team. Although the film appears to be shot chiefly in Southern California – San Pedro and Long Beach – we are suddenly in “Hoosiers”-land.

Here’s another flawed coach trying to atone for past sins by rescuing an inept bunch of hoopsters who start off lazy and disorganized. Bit by bit … well … you know the drill.

Don’t worry; there are no spoilers except to say there’s no Hollywood ending here. Affleck reportedly started filming this movie not long after getting out of rehab himself, so his version of a depressed boozehound rings true. It certainly has to, because he is in practically a one-man show, appearing in nearly every scene.

Almost a character in “The Way Back” is the lighting, which ranges from bleached out to grey and foreboding. Credit that to cinematographer Eduard Grau for that.

Some credit to screenwriter Brad Inglesby, who gives us a standard sports fantasy until it isn’t. If you can wait around, you might find movie this interesting.

“The Way Back” stars Ben Affleck. It’s rated R for heavy alcohol use and lots and lots of profanity.

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