Top positive review
29 people found this helpful
"Keep your feet on the ground and not your head in the sky,"
on October 19, 2006
Slickly made and featuring a terrifically involving performance from its lead man Kuno Becker, Goal is the epitome of a your rags-to-riches fairy tale, a truly romanticized ode to improbable dreams. Thankfully, the direction and performances are good enough to get us through the progressively hackneyed storyline and a screenplay that seems intent to offer up almost every single cliché in the book.
Illegally crossing into America as a child, Santiago Muñez, grows up in the barrio of East Los Angeles, sure of only one thing - his indelible love of soccer and that one day he wants to do something with his talent. He supports himself by working as a kitchen hand in a Chinese restaurant and as a gardener for his blue-collar dad, Hernan (Tony Plana) who tells him to stop dreaming and focus on supporting his family.
Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane) - a part-time talent scout and a former championship footballer with contacts in U.K. soccer world - spots Santiago playing and manages to persuade Erik Dornhelm (Marcel Iures), the German manager of Newcastle United, to give Santiago a tryout if he comes to the U.K.
With the help of his kindly grandmother (Miriam Colon), who tells him "to follow his dream," Santiago arrives in London, takes the train north and turns up unannounced on Glen's doorstep. Now in the cold and rainy Northeast England, Santiago has a month to prove himself worthy of playing alongside the cocky playboy David Beckham-like star Gavin Harris (Alessandro Nivola).
Apart from the obviously clichéd look of the film - Los Angeles is filmed in shades of burnt out orange and the UK is constantly awash in rainy washed-out blue - the poor Santiago is faced with many hurdles and indeed looks like an exotic looking fish out of water as he fights to stay on the reserve soccer team and achieve his inevitable path towards football glory.
The drama comes from the fact that he keeps mucking up. He's not used to playing in the rain and mud and there's the problem with his asthma that he keeps secret from Dornhelm and the attractive team nurse (Anna Friel) whom he has a crush on. He's on the team and then he's off the team, then there's a tragedy at home which forces him to rethink his priorities, and then he's faced with the inevitable moral choice of being an upright young man rather than party with the irresponsible Gavin.
The stereotypical characters are all here - the conceited and uncaring agent, the kindly grandma, the love-interest nurse, the cheering coach, the nasty team member, the truculent father, the quietly supportive kid brother. The film starts off very strong - the best scenes are those set in Los Angeles - but the story steadily begins to hinge on contrived coincidences and eventually starts to look like one long training session.
Becker is the main reason to see this film - he's an actor with a big future, a charming, ruggedly fine-looking presence, and even though his playing scenes are clearly doubled, we get a strong feel for the character both on and off the pitch.
Of course, we do get caught up in it all as the film surges to its astonishingly predicable conclusion, which mainly tugs at the heartstrings because this fine cast has managed to earn our sympathy. Perhaps the next two installments of this story - yes, there's a Goal 2 and 3 soon to be released! - will generate a bit more invention and creativity and finally make this franchise of Santiago's journey, a story that we can truly root for. Mike Leonard October 06.