The Express (2008)

Interesting look, at a guy I had no idea about.

Rob Brown stars as trailblazer Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. Dubbed the “Elmira Express” because of his tireless drive, Davis also lived up to the title off the field fighting for racial equality. Director Gary Fleder’s inspiring biopic co-stars Dennis Quaid as Ben Schwartzwalder, the crusty Syracuse University coach who teaches Davis the game and in return learns much from his bold civil rights achievements.

The key to a good football movie is to be more than just a movie about football greats. Sure, the game sequences need to be authentic, but to fully capture an audience, a football movie needs to be about life, not just the big game.

Usually, when it comes to sports movies, or sports biopics, I always know a thing or two going in, about the subject. But with this one, I didn’t know who Ernie Davis was, and at the end of watching this, I think I really did get to know him, which is how all biopics should be. Davis was more than just a black football player, he was an out-spoken hero in the Civil Rights movement and we see how he fights through all the racism everywhere he goes, just to finally win the game.

However, the film does get a bit too preachy with its message about racism, mostly because the same message has been used in many other race meets sports films like Remember the Titans, Ali, and countless others. And a lot more of this film is very predictable, and basically stuff you have seen before.

Rob Brown here is good as Ernie Davis, and plays him with barely any knowledge of who this real character is, and plays it strongly. The best in the cast here is Dennis Quaid, who plays the tough-but-fair coach. He’s a dick for the whole first hour or so, and then you can see him transform as a character, as Davis starts to transform into a better human, and it all seems believable.

I think the main thing the film was going for is being influential, and it really is. It gives the viewers the look at a life, probably no one has ever heard of, and makes us feel like we can do something like he did.

Consensus: The Express is predictable, however, it features two powerful leads, and an inspiring story, about the life of a forgotten American life, that is also the most important one too.



  1. I agree with you Dan, in fact, I also gave it a score of 7/10 on IMDb although I haven’t fully reviewed it. It’s a decent film about an important subject but Friday Night Lights does the football so much better, while Remember The Titans marries the football with the racial descrimination story to perfection.

  2. I enjoyed this one. A solid *** star flm. Never thought it got overly preachy. Thought Quaid was very well cast indeed. And yes, it is predictable — most true stories are, I would think. A sad fate. You bring up a good point about sports films and I agree – must be more than just what is on the field and tried to put that in my recent Top 15 Sports Films List on the Magic Lantern. This is worth the watch though.

    PS – it was better than “Inception” – HA!

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