North Dallas Forty is a time capsule. Plain and simple. If you don't quite remember, or it is new to
you, the movie follows the life and times of a pro football player, Phillip
Elliot (Nick Nolte) during one week between games.
Elliott is an aging and banged up second string player for the famous and storied "North Dallas" league (not to be confused with the Dallas Cowboys...right). Nolte is a perfect fit for the role, bringing a growly scruff and easy-to-read restless rebellious streak. Quickly, Nolte's character comes up against his team's top line managers that preach sacrifice and discipline. Nolte's Elliot agrees to 'play ball' and fall in line. But how long will that last?
Usually, a squeaky wheel
player is not the one to root for in a movie about teamwork and love of the
game. Yet, North Dallas Forty is not too subtle in its message that pits the
players against a number-crunching, hypocritical corporate entity. Essentially, the players are pawns to be
used, calibrated and manipulated by coaches, owners and other white collar
types to achieve victories. Duh! Still, it's fascinating to see the anxieties
about corporate and 'business' encroachment into professional sports occurring
nearly 30 years ago.
North Dallas Forty is fun to watch. Nick Nolte and Mac Davis are a great combo. Davis shines as a whip smart, laconic veteran player that tries to shepherd Nolte back to being a team player. In fact, Davis comes close to stealing the movie. He's got the best lines and colorful, down home descriptions that could make any Texan proud. Together, Davis and Nolte are believable and likeable as seen-it-all, done-it-all football players.
The pleasure of North Dallas Forty isn't really that 'it' moment of the big game that occurs in so many sports movie, but rather the look behind the game. The time between games: the recuperation, the nervousness, the training, the partying, the quiet time, and the visits with management. With so much occurring between the games, it's a wonder players can produce at actual game time. But they do, and North Dallas Forty delivers too.