So are we gonna have a faith-based, four-hankie true story about a goody-two-shoes football star who touched the lives of many and died too young every year now? For those who wiped away tears after watching the fact-based sports drama My All-American last year comes Greater, yet another tale of a God-fearing, incessantly kindhearted football player who was taken from sports fans way too soon. The real-life player this time around is Brandon Burlsworth (Christopher Severio), a gentle giant who made it his life's mission to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks. The movie takes us through his awkward, formative years playing pee-wee and high-school ball to his time as a Razorback -- first as a walk-on, then as a full-fledged player who ended up becoming the heart and soul of the team -- right up to the car accident that took his life.
Like All-American, it's competently made. Director David Hunt (who also co-wrote) hits all the familiar beats as our outcast goes from ostracized weirdo to pulverizing hero, gawkily winning people over one tackle at a time. But Burlsworth's life is wrapped around scenes of his faith-doubting older brother (Neal McDonough, also executive producer), silently, angrily mourning at his brother's memorial service and butting heads with a bile-spewing, nihilistic farmer (Nick Searcy) over the choices God makes -- if there is a God, of course.
These excessive scenes (the running time is 130 minutes -- they should've been spliced out) turn the film from predictable-yet-earnest sports biopic to clumsy, gruelingly maudlin lesson on the importance of faith. Yes, Burlsworth was truly an angel among us, but Greater takes the audience through some heavy-handed hell.