The Way Back (Ben Affleck) – The director of Miracle, Gavin O’Connor, reconnects with Ben Affleck, who he directed in The Accountant, in this stunningly predictable tale of an alcoholic whose life is spiraling into the depths of hell. Affleck, a two-time Academy Award winner (for Good Will Hunting and Argo) but never, ever for acting, plays Jack Cunningham, a former high school basketball star who is asked to come back and coach his alma mater.
But Jack is in no condition to coach a bunch of Hoosiers/Mighty Ducks/Bad News Bears/Pride-like kids. He is barely functional for reasons we find out too late in the film. Nonetheless, he tries. He is often late for practice. He swears up a storm, which doesn’t go over so well with the team chaplain of this Catholic school. But somehow, the team starts to win. We even begin to see the decent human being underneath Jack’s sad, mad demeanor.
But stories like this never end that easily. Just as Jack’s team reaches the cusp of success, the man regresses. He gets fired; he gets drunk; he makes bad mistakes and lands in the hospital. The rest is … well, who cares?
While They Way Back is being promoted as the basketball movie equivalent of The Karate Kid, Rocky, and the rest of the movies mentioned earlier, it is actually a film about loss, depression, alcoholism, and abandonment. And it carries an awful piano-laden soundtrack and depressingly dark tones. Happy times! Not.
Maybe because Affleck’s private life mirrors some of this story, you might be inclined to see it. Don’t. It really isn’t very good. Even Affleck fans may want to wait until it reaches Netflix or the other streaming services … which shouldn’t take very long.