After suffering a devastating injury, an American Football player is cut from the team and then struggles with the thought of retiring for good in the short film Lionheart.
Even though we have seen many throughout the years, sports dramas always seem to find an audience. If it’s not comedies like Major League, and Unnecessary Roughness, it’s full-on potential Oscar winners like Jerry Maguire or Moneyball, fans seem to run to theatres to watch similar stories of overcoming adversity to win on the field, ring, or ice rink.
Now we have Lionheart. Written, directed by, and starring D.J. Hale, Lionheart is a short twenty-minute drama that follows an undersized and injured Zac Mason (Hale). After starting pre-season well, Mason soon finds himself on the operating table after receiving a devastating knee injury. Though we see him training and pushing his leg back to full strength through a few early montages, he receives a phone call stating that he has been cut from the team. Obviously devastated, Mason continues to train in the hope that his agent will find him a new team to play on, but due to his size and position, it soon becomes apparent that finding a new team is no easy feat.
Mason slips into depression and could have headed down some dark alleys if it wasn’t for his supportive partner Dani (Jenna Ross) who provides words of encouragement and a shoulder to cry on.
As with many short films, we see a distinct lack of a real budget that could have helped Lionheart immeasurably. We don’t actually witness Mason’s injury occur, instead, we open up on his rehabilitation. Imagine if the short opened up on a football field in pre-season, the coaches on the sidelines shouting as Mason goes down under a tackle, not to get back up; it would have made a statement. That’s not to knock on what Hale and his team have achieved here, I feel it just could have been bigger. What we do get in the short is a few training montages, and scenes within Mason’s home.
Hale does exceptionally well. Performing in front of the camera, he is believable as the injured star with a chip on his shoulder. We feel for him and want him to do well, even when he is wallowing in self-pity. Jenna Ross is quite a find as Dani, she exudes warmth and a strong support system for her boyfriend. I will definitely be looking out for future performances as this could be the start of a great career for her.
The cinematography by David Gordon is mostly decent, with some great shots that flow, though I did notice a few instances where the focus is lost, but that can be forgiven as the film doesn’t stick to a static shot, reverse shot like you see on many shorts. A shout-out is also necessary for composer Rory Laws; his music compliments the visuals really well.
Overall, Lionheart is a well-made short film that hits all the right emotional keys. In twenty minutes it manages to force the audience to feel and root for the sportsman, which is no easy feat.