The Long Game

Directed By Julio Quintana

Starring – Denis Quaid, Jay Hernandez, Jaina Lee Ortiz

The Plot – Based on the critically acclaimed self-published book by Author Humberto G. Garcia. In 1955, five young Mexican-American caddies, out of the love for the game, were determined to learn how to play, so they created their own golf course in the middle of the South Texas desert. Despite having outdated and inferior equipment, and no professional instruction to begin with, they would go on to compete against wealthy all-white teams and win the 1957 Texas State High School Golf Championship. The film is “A Field of Dreams” set in the world of Golf. Their inspiring triumph overcame prejudice and broke barriers for many Latino PGA Golfers to follow.

Rated PG for adult language, racial slurs, thematic material, some violence and brief rude material.

THE LONG GAME – Official Trailer (2024) (


As of late, sports biopics have flown the way of unoriginal conventionalism, with so many of their offerings feeling interchangable in everything from structure to abundance of littered cliches, but that shifts ever so slightly with “The Long Game”, with refreshing elements of originality that made it an inspiring addition to a subgenre that is practically floundering. Above all else, this is an impressively shot film by cinematographer and brother to the director, Alex Quintana, who channels feelings of Terrence Malick, with side-spanning movements amid tight proximity to framing that feels so unlike any other sports movie that you’ve ever seen. This leads to many positives, but mainly the immersive accessibility to the way the in-game sequences are shot, with navigating trailing that faithfully follows the swings of the golfers, as well as the movements of the ball, which feel so fluid and authentic in depiction, instead of editing tricks that typically manipulate capabilities of attaining the various feats. Beyond this, montages pertaining to growing chemistry within the group are utilized in the depths of some handheld home movies kind of photography, with grainy contrast and overided editing that faithfully capture that vintage brand of documentation that feels right at home with its 1955 setting. There’s also a series of meaningful framed shots with American flags and racist onlookers to trigger the irony of various situations, articulating South Texas as a place of much hypocrisy during the established age, with an overhanging element of uncomfortability that accurately measured everything that these teammates were unfortunately forced to deal with on an almost daily basis. This is where Julio’s direction can be felt the loudest, because not only does he do a wonderful job sifting through the socialism of the small town ideals, where the Mexican population are treated like a dirty secret among its white population, but also equally alienated by some of their own people, as they’re considered traders for partaking in what was considered a white sport at that time, all while being forced to play along with the politics to reach heights for their culture that seemed so impossible for the time. This crafts an isolated element to the team that makes them easier to empathetically invest in, but beyond that frames them for the trail-blazers that they eventually grew to become in the eyes of their community, paving the way for many Mexican-American golfers who thankfully didn’t have to appease detestable bigotry just to play a game of interests. Additionally, the film is acted brilliantly by the collective ensemble, but particularly Hernandez, Quaid and Cheech Marin, who imbed so much heart and humanity to their respective characters. Hernandez perhaps takes his biggest step forward as a leading actor, portraying Pena with stoicism and civility among his peers, despite ever-changing situations that could unravel his patience at any given second. Hernandez imbeds the same charms and magnetism that we’ve come to expect from him, but ideally his warmth for gentility towards his team is most palpable, serving him as a father figure to many troubled youths who indulge in the game to escape a life of monotony. As for Quaid and Marin, they carefully pick their moments to steal a scene or two, with the latter bestowing his strange but sentimental knowledge towards Pena, and the former casting an insightful glance into white psychology, which serves the team wonderfully in their approach to feeling welcome among rival teams, with Quaid’s blunt-but-prophetic advice coming into play to often ease the pressure and tension of many blossoming conflicts. Lastly, the film’s personality is of much debate towards its tonal consistency, but I found the movie’s soundtrack brilliantly mastered to steer meaning and merit to the proceedings, especially in the balance of so many contrasting cultures to the movie’s creativity. Examples of this are classic pop/vocal or jazz scores finding their way to in-game sequences dominated by white players, or mariachi music remaining faithfully atmospheric during scenes among the Mexican community. This could easily come across as hokey or forcefully obvious if commanded by the wrong hands, but Quintana stitches them naturally to the fabric of the movie’s cultural influences, articulating South Texas as a melting pot of citizens that, like the storytelling at the forefront of the narrative, feels intentionally and continuously at odds with one another.


Though enhanced by some unforeseen elements of originality, “The Long Game” is anything but invincible, especially with some underwhelming aspects of development that keep it from truly attaining greatness. The first of those is with the underutilized characterization, which says more in a post-movie credit text-scroll than it does in 102 minutes of screen time. With the exception of Hernandez, and one of his teenage athletes, the entirety of the supporting cast are these ambiguous figures who factor into the storytelling about as much as I do, and in turn create a grave disconnect between them and the audience that dramatically underwhelms the stakes and circumstances within the magnitude of this movie’s conflict. If the script spent more time fleshing each of them out towards feeling like integral pieces to the fold, then it would’ve not only added varying dimensions of dramatic depth to the material, but also valued them as people, instead of the mere athletes they come across as, which might as well omitted them from the finished film all together. Equally problematic is the tonal tug-of-war that continuously shifts the film towards feeling like two distinctly varying directions fighting for dominance, all the while remarkably valuing one over the other in ways that leaves the inferior one feeling especially unnecessary. One could read the plot of this movie and coherently interpret it as a drama, especially since it pertains to racism, but the film frequently feels the need to force these gags and awkward situations into the material that not only rarely render laughs effectively, but also cut into the magnitude of the dramatic intensity, especially during the film’s inferior first half, which makes the film feel like a downright comedy. It does improve by the film’s second half, but isn’t able to evade feeling like an entirely different movie as a result, in turn surmizing these sharp contradicting tones that are never able to find a comfortable consistency between them. Finally, while the film is able to evade or at least smooth most of the conventional tropes and cliches assembled with sports biopics, metaphorical heavy dialogue isn’t as fortunate, and quite often we’re treated to these life lessons that spring from the confines of golf lingo that gets old quite quickly. If done once or twice, I could easily forgive lines like “You have to hook it out of the bunker and play for par”, or “Golf, like life, is all about studying the path in front of you”, but these materialize each time Marin’s character moves into frame, creating the rare but awkward situation where a film nearly robs him of all of his charisma, all the while cutting into any heartfelt moment of adversity earned by those characters enveloped in it.

“The Long Game” catches air with stunning cinematography and strong performances aplenty from its credible players, which help to keep its focus in play, despite antagonistic inferiorities that threaten its elite status among contemporary sports biopics. While the film is plagued by tonal and character flaws that threaten to undercut the meaning of this culturally relevant story, its heart is always in the right place, inspiring audiences with the kind of underdog story that is every bit entertaining as it is important.

My Grade: 7/10 or B-

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