Based on the incredible true story, The Express follows the inspirational life of college football hero Ernie Davis (Rob Brown), the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. Following his draft by the NFL, tragedy struck the star athlete and he was never able to take the professional field. But his tale would forever change the face of professional sports. Raised in poverty in Pennsylvania coal-mining country, Davis overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to become an unstoppable running back for the Syracuse Orangemen. Under the guidance of coach Ben Schwartzwalder (Dennis Quaid)-a hard-nosed surrogate father with an obsession for winning a national championship - Davis would develop from an impressive high-school athlete into a legend. While everyone agreed Ernie Davis was a miracle player, few thought this quiet young man would become an icon for the burgeoning civil rights movement dividing America in the early 1960s. Refusing to play by the unspoken racist rules of the day, Davis broke through one barrier after another to alter the way fans looked at men of his color. Though leukemia struck the player a terrible blow in the prime of his life, his spirit soared when most would crumble. Forcing his bull-headed coach to re-examine a life lived in color-based privilege, Davis would join the ranks of black pioneers who inspired a movement that smashed barriers on and off the playing field.
Charles Leavitt (written by); Robert Gallagher (book).
Rob Brown (Ernie Davis); Dennis Quaid (Ben Schwartzwalder); Darrin Dewitt Henson (Jim Brown); Omar Benson Miller (Jack Buckley); Nelsan Ellis (Will Davis, Jr.); Charles S. Dutton (Willie 'Pops' Davis); Justin Martin (Young Ernie Davis); Justin Jones (Young Will); Nicole Beharie (Sarah Ward); Aunjanue Ellis (Marie Davis); Elizabeth Shivers (Elizabeth Davis); Clancy Brown (Roy Simmons Sr.); Danny McCarthy (Bill Bell); Regina Hoyles (Sister); Chelcie Ross (Lew Andreas). Please contact SFC to add other cast members and characters.
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A Refreshing Take on a Familiar Genre
Mark Banks (United Kingdom)
'The Express' is a welcome and refreshing take on the genre of sports biographies and/or civil rights struggles. The football takes precedence over the civil rights struggles, but it's only through the latter that Ernie Davis (played by Rob Brown) is really shown to grow and develop as a person, as well as a sportsman. For me, 'The Express' is an original take on a genre, or genres, that have been covered in abundance before - take 'Remember the Titans' as a recent example. The major difference being that in 'The Express' the characters remember to smile a little more often, and the excessive grunting and other shows of machismo that are almost pre-requisite in football films, are agreeably absent (by and large) from this production. That said, neither Dennis Quaid nor Rob Brown, whilst both putting in a commendable performances, had quite the screen presence to really take this film into the upper echelons of memorable films. I also felt that more could have been made of Ernie's contraction of, and coping with, leukaemia. The synopsis above says "Though leukaemia struck the player a terrible blow in the prime of his life, his spirit soared when most would crumble". Unfortunately, this soaring of his spirit was somewhat neglected and instead 'The Express' was wrapped up within ten minutes or so after Ernie's illness had been confirmed: a loss to the film I believe. Still, Ernie's ground-breaking achievements were covered well, and should prove to be an inspiration for anyone out there that is battling against injustice, or 'just' battling against the odds. The film is also a timely reminder of just how far the United States has come in the past five decades with respect to overcoming society-wide acceptance of racism and prejudice.