The Heart of the Game (2006) "Draw blood!" coach Bill Resler orders his Roughriders, the varsity basketball squad from Seattle's upper-middle-class Roosevelt High School. And they do. They are the "pack… 2006-06-09 PG-13 PT98M PT103M Documentary Miramax
Movie Review

The Heart of the Game (2006)

MPAA Rating: PG-13
NET GAINS A thrilling look at a high school girls' basketball team's championship run
NET GAINS A thrilling look at a high school girls' basketball team's championship run
EW's GRADE
B+

Details Limited Release: Jun 09, 2006; Rated: PG-13; Lengths: 98 Minutes, 103 Minutes; Genre: Documentary; Distributor: Miramax

''Draw blood!'' coach Bill Resler orders his Roughriders, the varsity basketball squad from Seattle's upper-middle-class Roosevelt High School. And they do. They are the ''pack of wolves'' he tells them to be. Then they're a ''tropical storm,'' a ''pride of lions.'' The scorched-earth metaphors (as effective as they are hokey) rotate faster than the bench over the seven savage seasons covered in the pulse-racing docu-rah-rah The Heart of the Game, but Resler's kill-or-be-killed philosophy remains as fixed as the pupils of a hungry predator. Why does a coach's stoking of adolescent bloodlust feel thrilling here, as opposed to, well, a little scary? Frankly, because these are girls, not boys. So might the same techniques routinely blamed for turning young males into raging, entitled pack animals actually convert self-doubting high school females into proud, sisterly she-wolves?

When such interesting questions aren't answered (or even articulated), one wishes Heart used its head a little more. But filmmaker Ward Serrill is not a social scientist. He's a gifted sports photographer, and from the moment inner-city wonder girl Darnellia Russell enters the picture — becoming the reluctant star of both the (mostly white) team and the movie — Serrill is just as invested in the girls' success as they are. On these terms, the film is a furious full-court press, its subjects aflame with the kind of passion only youth can furnish. Even their bruises are luminous.

Originally posted Jun 07, 2006 Published in issue #882 Jun 16, 2006 Order article reprints