WOODLAWN The Movie… A Review!

A Friend of the Z- Kristine McGuire with a First Look



This evening, Thom and I had the privilege of attending a pre-release screening of the Pure Flix/Kevin Downes produced and Erwin Brothers (October Baby, Mom’s Night Out) directed film, WOODLAWN.

First thoughts.


Second thoughts.

Yep. Wow still works.

Here is a synopsis of the film from the official movie website:

A gifted high school football player must learn to boldly embrace his talent and his faith as he battles racial tensions on and off the field in WOODLAWN, a moving and inspirational new film based on the true story of how love and unity overcame hate and division in early 1970s Birmingham, Ala.

Tony Nathan (newcomer Caleb Castille) lands in a powder keg of anger and violence when he joins fellow African-American students at Woodlawn High School after its government-mandated desegregation in 1973. The Woodlawn Colonels football team is a microcosm of the problems at the school and in the city, which erupts in cross burnings and riots, and Coach Tandy Geralds (Nic Bishop) is at a loss to solve these unprecedented challenges with his disciplinarian ways.

It’s only when Hank (Sean Astin), an outsider who has been radically affected by the message of hope and love he experienced at a Christian revival meeting, convinces Coach Geralds to let him speak to the team that something truly remarkable begins to happen. More than 40 players, nearly the entire team, black and white, give their lives over to the “better way” Hank tells them is possible through following Jesus, and the change is so profound in them it affects their coach, their school and their community in ways no one could have imagined.

Keep in mind that I saw a version of the film which is unfinished. There are still ADR edits to be made, a green screen to be filled in one scene, a few edits which can be cleaned up. This preview version of the film is still a work in progress. These little details, however, did nothing to alter my overall imperession.

The film is very well done. The story is compelling, the characters interesting, the football action scenes had me on the edge of my seat, and the pace is very good in my opinion. Thom feels there are a few slow spots but it is a drama with sports action, not a sports action film, so the pacing is reasonable. The direction and cinematography are excellent.

The actors are phenomenal.

My particular favorites are Caleb Castille as Tony Nathan. This may be his debut film but he is spot on, likable, believable in his role. I also like Nic Bishop as Coach Geralds. He made me believe in a character who began as a hardened skeptic whose life was changed by the events which happened at Woodlawn in 1973-74.

Who doesn’t love Sean Astin? The man is an amazing actor and his portrayal of Hank is so genuine. And then there is C. Thomas Howell’s portayal of George “Shorty” White. I have never wanted to first slug and then later hug a character so much in my life. Seriously!  The man is such a good actor. Sheri Shepherd as Tony Nathan’s mother is a delight! Laugh out loud funny at times. Finally, Oscar award winning Jon Voight as Coach Bryant (Roll Tide!) adds just that extra bit of  gravitas to a well rounded and talented cast.

The film is in theaters tomorrow!.

This is a film you want to see. This is a film you will want to take your sports teams, youth groups, families, Bible study groups, neighbors, friends, skeptics, sports nuts, work buddies, fantasy football cohorts, and every other person you know to see WOODLAWN.


Because the story needs to be shared. People need to know how one man sharing the gospel with a group of high school football players brought hope and life to those young men, their coaches, and changed everything. How word spread from Woodlawn to other high schools, communities, and the people’s whose lives were changed. How a city which had been mired in anger, hate, bigotry, and violence found the ONE WAY to forgiveness and love. WOODLAWN wll have you laughing, crying, cheering, and holding your hand high with Coach Geralds and Tony Nathan to proclaim:

One Way.