This movie is not what you might expect. It is not your typical sports movie, where a disparate team comes together to triumph over adversity as the music swells with a dumb sense of pride. This is a movie about people, kind of like Seabiscuit that way, except less happy and with no horses.
This movie is about Odessa, a medium-sized town in Texas with no economy and nothing to do besides obsess about high school football. It is a town where they pay the football coach twice as much as their teachers, where a boy's best chance out is to get a football scholarship to a faraway college, and where these boys are under so much pressure to win because the town seems unable to succeed at anything else.
A movie like this depends on its actors, because it is a character drama at its core. Much noise has been made of Billy Bob, and how he gives a great performance, and this is very true, but he is not the only star in this movie. The boys all do a great job too, especially Lucas Black. I have never noticed this actor before, but he is so intense as Mike Winchell that he makes you really feel for him. The other boys, including Derek Luke and Jay Hernandez, are also note-perfect.
There is a great moment at the end, after their final game, when they talk about what they are going to do next. They haven't graduated yet, but it is already over for them. There is a sense that nothing else matters. Subtitles tell us what happens to everyone. It is sometimes funny, often tragic, and always ironic, and you leave the movie feeling like you've met some new people who are very real.