The real-life story of the 1988 Dallas Carter team, who I always knew as the antagonists of Friday Night Lights, is in truth so much better than the story of the Odessa Permian team, it's surprising me that Bissinger didn't write a follow-up book solely about it. The drama of the grade controversy during the playoffs and the robberies that followed make for an excellent story.
But here's the problem. Muhammad, who went to Dallas Carter and played football either on the team that is the subject of the film or around the same time period; wrote, directed, and even edited this film himself. Clearly, this was a passion project for him, but I think he was so close to it that he couldn't see the forest for the trees when it came to a lot of this film's problems.
The biggest issue I have with the film is that there is almost no effort to establish character with any of the players. We're dropped in to this world as if we, like Muhammad, knew all of these people already. I will give credit to the sentencing scene at the end of the film, which was extremely powerful and well done.
The story of this team is so interesting, and so powerful when seen through the sociopolitical lense of 1980s Texas, and race relations in our own time, that I wish this film could have been made by a more competent filmmaker with a more robust budget, like Barry Jenkins, Ryan Coogler, or F. Gary Gray. This movie should have felt more like Straight Outta Compton, but the end result is better compared to Facing the Giants.