Movie Review: “23 Blast” Is A Remarkable True Story

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Review by James McDonald

When a high school football star is suddenly stricken with irreversible total blindness, he must decide whether to live a safe handicapped life or bravely return to the life he once knew and the sport he still loves.

“23 Blast” is one of the most engaging and heartfelt movies I have seen in some time. It never lends itself to schmaltzy, overly-pretentious melodrama like so many other movies of its ilk, instead, it tells its story and makes no apologies for doing so. It is based on the real-life events of Travis Freeman (Mark Hapka), a Kentucky teen quarterback on his high school football team. After a severe headache which lasted over nine days, Travis was diagnosed with Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis (CST) or bacterial meningitis and lost his eyesight as a result. With the support of his family, friends and his football coach, he managed to stay on the team and because of him, they advanced to the state playoffs.

What I really love about this movie, is that it never overstays its welcome, no matter what aspect of the story it zeros in on. After Travis wakes up in the hospital having just had an operation on his eyes, he realizes he can’t see and begins to freak out. When his mother and father inform him of his condition, he refuses to believe that he is blind and instead of spending an exorbitant amount of time on this particular aspect of the story, Travis is given time to mourn, so to speak and then the film moves on to the next chapter. Coach Farris (Stephen Lang) is amazed at his confidence, given his situation and comes up with an idea that puts Travis back in the game.

Naturally, he won’t play as quarterback but instead, Farris puts him in the center position where he is able to help block his opponents and give his teammates the opportunity to run with the ball. I am not a sports fan in the least but “23 Blast” combines football and drama and does it so effectively that even if you don’t know the rules of the game, the movie makes it interesting enough that you can get caught up in the emotions of the story and just go with it. Dylan Baker is a wonderful character actor who has one of those familiar faces you’ve seen many times before in such movies as “The Cell”, “Thirteen Days” and “Spider-Man 2.”

With “23 Blast”, he makes his feature-film directorial debut and delivers a passionate and inspirational movie that is filled with authentic human emotions. Thankfully, the movie isn’t full of extraneous subplots that wander off in various directions, instead, the story stays focused on its primary objective, which is Travis as he sets out towards a virtually unattainable goal. The entire cast, including Mr. Baker as Travis’ father, are at the top of their game and there is not one contrived or unnatural scene that relies on insipid or overacted content, rather, the entire film is spontaneous and flows consistently and unaffectedly and is very highly recommended.

In theaters October 24th

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James McDonald
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