An Indiana high school basketball team triumphs in a classic underdog story based on a real-life incident (and aren’t they always).
A cool reception greets former army man Norman Dale when he arrives in Hickory to coach the high-school basketball team. Distrusted by the players and the community, Dale’s gruelling methods and volatile attitude soon make him enemies.
However, being a man of principle and stubborn with it, he refuses to compromise, whether the players win or lose.
Set in 1951, it’s a finely drawn study of postwar American mores, evocatively scored by Jerry Goldsmith and sharply directed by first-timer David Anspaugh, a TV director whose credits include Hill Street Blues and St Elsewhere.
Gene Hackman is the coach who turns his boys into disciplined players, while Dennis Hopper (pictured) barely broke a sweat in his Oscar-nominated performance as the alcoholic father of one of the boys (method acting?).
People from Indiana are known as “Hoosiers”, which was this film’s US title – it was renamed Best Shot for UK audiences.
John Robert Thompson