• Wendy Shreve


Learning to row an eight-person scull efficiently, effectively and swiftly requires balance, coordination plus cooperation. One individual's desire to win at all cost can scuttle a boat, ruining the chances for his or her team.

Many a movie has been made about competitive rowing, Oxford Blues, A Most Beautiful Thing, but the stars have always been the rowers not the coach.

In Heart of Champions (2021),

the audience may recognize early that veteran Michael Shannon, who plays Coach Jack Murphy, shines as the true protagonist of the movie.

Murphy's college team (the movie was filmed in Baton Rouge, LA) at first captained by an ambitious athlete Alex (Alexander Ludgwig, Vikings); a captain-in-training John (Alex MacNicoll), then later joined by transfer student Chris (Charles Melton), who has personal demons to overcome, comprise the three prominent characters in the movie's plot.

The story takes a familiar tack with infighting among two of the team members, resentment toward the captain, a coxswain that has trouble juggling the crew, and the coach who has the potential to turn the team into top-ranked competitors. At first, the momentum moves along until subplots begin to drag the movie. Further, the slapdash ending disappoints.

Among the young actors, Ash Santos who portrays Chris's girlfriend, Nisha, stands out. Another supporting player, David James Elliott looking rough around the edges, as the father of one of the rowers and the man responsible for recruiting Coach Murphy, goes against type in his portrayal.

Still, the film belongs to Michael Shannon. When he appears on screen, you feel the urge to sit at attention. His commanding voice and those laser-like eyes elevate the movie from being a standard sports story.

Watching a scull move across the water in perfect rhythm, the crew rowing in synchronicity can be a beautiful experience. Making a movie that gives as much attention, beauty and depth to the all the main characters would have made Heart of Champions a stellar experience.

Rated PG-13 for drinking, fighting, language, and sexual situations.

Available in select theaters on October 29th.

Earlier reviews not seen on this website (before May 20, 2021) are available on or my previous blog site,

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