I’m not a fan of football, but I am a fan of triumph, faith and perseverance under the most extreme circumstances. There’s nothing more inspiring than watching a fight to the finish for a dream you can just taste. But, even more gleeful to watch are the performances from the “dirty dozen” or “12 Mighty Orphans.”
The triumph of what all involved won couldn’t be printed in papers. It was a feeling that would last long past their human existence, only to now be captured on forever on film. For over a century, The Masonic Home in Fort Worth, Texas took in thousands of children from all walks of life who were fed, clothed and educated by its extraordinary teachers, coaches and administrators. Rusty and Juanita Russell served the home for 16 years and their legacy lived strong until its closing in 2005. Along with his players legacy. Rusty would go on to be inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1971 and is largely created wih the “spread offense” utilized by sport teams for decades.
What is most disturbing is the how individuals who operated these homes were despicable, childless, people without a conscience or soul. Cowards who had no problem beating the self-esteem and confidence right out of these unassuming young men who are already mentally tortured having parents leave them voluntarily, die or mistreat them physically. Luckily, these twelve men, had Rusty Russell (who is portrayed with gentle conviction by Luke Wilson). Nearly all of them go on to become invaluable members of society in the armed forces, education or sports.
In addtion, to the strong ensemble performances from each and every cast member, the on-screen reunion between Robert Duvall and Martin Sheen since their Apocalypse Now days was truly an extra added treat. If this wasn’t a true story, I would blink twice at the Simon Legree/Miss Hannigan nature of Wayne Knight ‘s inhabitation of Frank Wynn. Don’t get me wrong Knight is more than completely believable, comical, yet despciable enought that you cheer when he finally gets what’s coming to him.
But, let’s be real. This is really a undercover biopic for Rusty Russell with a slight focus on Hardy Brown. Russell was one Texan who went full throttle with everything – and not without reason. When Rusty, pushes a young Hardy (portrayed with the ulitmate conviction by Justin Austin Walker) beyond his limits it’s easy to see how he became a football legend. Brown was four years old when he witnessed the murder of his father. He was then sent, along with his brothers and sisters, to live at the Texas Masonic Home. Brown, having played college football at the University of Tulsa and then professionally goes on to become an American football linebacker legend in the National Football League, All-America Football Conference, and the American Football League, as well as, hitting the field for the San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins and the Denver Broncos.
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics and directed by Ty Roberts, 12 Mighty Orphans was released nationwide on June 11th.