In an effort to get himself out of trouble with some heavies and having amassed enormous gambling debts, down-on-his-luck, end-of-his-tether, Connor O'Neil (Keanu Reeves) reluctantly agrees to coach baseball to a group of kids for $500 a week.
Naturally all the normal cliches are there (it's a sports movie, after all), but at least they are shaken up a little: the kids aren't sickly sweet; Connor is a very messed up character who is more in need of help than the kids he coaches; and the sport action is actually quite low key and the film is cut in a really rather interesting way (especially towards the very end) that lets you understand what happens during the season but doesn't take the audience through every game.
The performances are good - Reeves does a very good job with the desperate, hard gambling, hard drinking, chain smoking, Connor who is struggling with the responsibility that comes with being a coach and role model. Plus - nice job singing Big Papa, Keanu...
The DVD comes with various bits and pieces including deleted scenes, a decent director's commentry and a really rather dull 'making of' feature.
I enjoyed this film. It's humorous in places and dramatic in others. The romance is so slight as to be hardly worth the effort, so don't expect a strong rom-com b-story (although what there is, is quite sweet). I think people might be surprised to find that watching Hardball is a painless and actually quite enjoyable experience.