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Aldis Hodge

“BRIAN BANKS” My rating: B 

99 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

With “Brian Banks” a familiar story is told in unfamiliar fashion.

Tom Shadyak’s drama follows the true-life saga of Brian Banks, a promising football star who at age 16 was accused of rape, plead no contest to avoid a long prison sentence, and nevertheless spent six years behind bars before being released into a parole system which — because he was now a convicted sex offender — was its own sort of hellish imprisonment.

Most movies would approach the subject chronologically. Doug Atchison’s screenplay cleverly starts in the middle with Banks (Aldis Hodge) already on parole. His history, though, means he cannot find anyone willing to employ him.  Just as bad, a new California law requires him and all sex offenders to wear an ankle monitor and remain within their neighborhoods…meaning he must give up  his place on a local college football team.

We cringe to see the humiliations Brian is subjected to. On the bright side are a handful of individuals upon whom he depends, like his ever-faithful mother (Sherri Shepherd), his new girlfriend (Melanie Liburd) and a prison mentor (an uncredited Morgan Freeman, seen only in flashbacks) who saves his life by emphasizing the need for a mental overhaul if you’re going to survive behind bars.

Somewhat less sympathetic is his by-the-rulebook parole officer (Dorian Missick).

And then Brian gets wind of the California Innocence Project, the brainchild of law professor Justin Brooks (Greg Kinnear), who with a staff of unpaid law students seeks to free the unjustly imprisoned.

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