The Express

4.5 6
Director: Gary Fleder

Cast: Gary Fleder, Rob Brown, Dennis Quaid, Omar Benson Miller


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Finding Forrester star Rob Brown steps into the cleats of Heisman Trophy-winning gridiron giant Ernie Davis in director Gary Fleder's inspirational sports docudrama. As a young boy reared not far from the northern Pennsylvania state line, Davis dreamed of blasting through the end zone and scoring a…  See more details below


Finding Forrester star Rob Brown steps into the cleats of Heisman Trophy-winning gridiron giant Ernie Davis in director Gary Fleder's inspirational sports docudrama. As a young boy reared not far from the northern Pennsylvania state line, Davis dreamed of blasting through the end zone and scoring a triumphant touchdown while fans rose to their feet and cheered. When Davis later became a star running back for the Syracuse Orangemen, his dreams were finally on the way to becoming a reality. Under the wing of coach Ben Schwartzwalder (Dennis Quaid), it seemed as if there is nothing that could stop Davis from entering into the annals of sports history; even during an era in which the civil rights movement was just gaining momentum, this fledgling gridiron giant never once doubted his ability to rise to the top. When Davis was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after being drafted into the NFL, however, his will to survive soon eclipsed his dreams of success.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
The Express, Gary Fleder's biopic of Syracuse running back Ernie Davis, hits all the conventional plot points of the traditional inspirational football story. Davis (Rob Brown) establishes himself as a high-school phenom, triggering the interest of numerous big-time college programs. When Coach Ben Schwartzwalder (Dennis Quaid) arrives for a recruiting visit -- bringing along recently graduated superstar Jim Brown (Darrin Dewitt Henson) to help seal the deal -- Davis agrees to play for the Orangemen. Once at the school, he bonds quickly with one of his two African-American teammates, offensive lineman Jack Buckley (a winning Omar Benson Miller), but must contend with racism from teammates, opponents, officials, and society. Davis faced these severe obstacles with the stoicism of his hero Jackie Robinson, and the young actor Rob Brown does a fine job of playing a resolutely self-assured guy. The script makes Davis a nearly flawless hero, but Brown is so loaded with personal charm that his performance keeps the character from growing dull. Davis works hard, and Brown communicates the joy Davis takes in practicing -- something that makes both the character and the actor nearly impossible to dislike. As the coach, Quaid does fine work, but the script lets him down; his tough love and his inspirational speeches are so familiar from countless other sports films that he never quite transcends the banality. That refusal to shed genre conventions keeps undercutting the good things about The Express -- for a film about a young man who broke new ground, the screenplay tells the story in the safest way imaginable. Director Gary Fleder attempts to escape from this traditionalism, but ends up overdirecting the material; there is so much slow-motion in the movie that it bloats the film's running time to two full hours, and the decision to shoot some of the game sequences in a grainy, washed-out film stock meant to feel like archival footage simply grows tiresome. It seemed the filmmakers were trying to create a Brian's Song for a new generation. The film has an unabashed, but still very manly, sentimentality; it's the kind of movie a guy's guy might actually allow himself to tear up while watching. Davis led an unquestionably inspirational life, but The Express, however heartfelt, is uninspired.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Universal Studios
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Deleted scenes with optional commentary by director Gary Fleder; Making of The Express; Making History: The Story of Ernie Davis; Inside the Playbook: Shooting football games; From Hollywood to Syracuse: The Legacy of Ernie Davis; Feature Commentary with director Gary Fleder

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Rob Brown Ernie Davis
Dennis Quaid Ben Schwartzwalder
Omar Benson Miller Jack Buckley
Darrin Dewitt Henson Jim Brown
Charles S. Dutton Willie 'Pops' Davis
Justin Martin Young Ernie
Geoff Stults Bob Lundy
Clancy Brown Roy Simmons

Technical Credits
Gary Fleder Director
Peter Afterman Musical Direction/Supervision
Deborah Aquila Casting
Nelson Coates Production Designer
Adam Copeland Co-producer
Derek Dauchy Executive Producer
John Davis Producer
Scott Martin Gershin Sound/Sound Designer
Mark Isham Score Composer
Ryan Kavanaugh Executive Producer
Charles Leavitt Screenwriter
Padraic McKinley Editor
Kramer Morgenthau Cinematographer
Abigail Murray Costumes/Costume Designer
David Obermeyer Sound/Sound Designer
Seth Reed Art Director
Arne Schmidt Executive Producer
Jennifer Smith Casting
William Steinkamp Editor
Ezra Swerdlow Executive Producer
David Tennenbaum Set Decoration/Design
Randall D. Wilkins Set Decoration/Design
Tricia Wood Casting
Margaret Yen Musical Direction/Supervision

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Express
1. On the Run [6:58]
2. Changing Times [5:42]
3. Knowing Your Place [3:23]
4. Getting Recruited [7:30]
5. Welcome to Syracuse [6:12]
6. Stepping On Toes [2:50]
7. A Special Number [9:02]
8. Big Shoes to Fill [5:55]
9. Different Worlds [4:20]
10. New Game Plan [6:32]
11. By the Rules [8:50]
12. Team Player [6:57]
13. North Vs. South [3:32]
14. The Cotton Bowl [8:44]
15. Not Just a Game Anymore [:25]
16. Trophy Ceremony [9:07]
17. Something's Not Right [9:54]
18. Being the Best [5:26]
19. One of a Kind [5:46]
20. End Titles [5:21]


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The Express 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Mogul More than 1 year ago
Movie tells the true story of Syracuse University running back Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. Great performance by Dennis Quaid as Syracuse Coach Ben Schwartzwalder. Strong support by Rob Brown, Omar Benson, Charles Dutton and Darren Dewitt Henson. Quaid's portrayal of Coach Ben, a Normandy WWII hero, is outstanding. Davis, wore the legendary number 44 for Syracuse as did Jim Brown and Floyd Little.

Production values and football action scenes are major league. The movie's climax, where Ernie is introduced to Cleveland Browns fans, is right up there with the very best moments ever put on film. Director Gary Fleder has created a great movie for sports fans of all ages and families. Very inspirational along the lines of Rudy and October Sky. A definite must have addition to your DVD collection.
jimbob More than 1 year ago
I felt the coach's character used God's name in vain way too often. From what I have heard the real coach was a devout Christian and never swore. I enjoyed the movie due to the fact it showed a young man with character, passion, and perseverance.
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