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The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News


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COLUMN: ‘Critical Thinking’: combining street-life and chess in an awkward sense

Ashanti Thomas
Staff profile for Cam’ron.

Based on a true story, “Critical Thinking” is about a group of inner-city high schoolers trying to win first place in a chess competition.

The movie came off trying to be too inspirational and over dramatic.

Mario Martinez or Mr. T, played by director and actor John Leguizamo, was the main star and the coach of the chess team.

He made his connection with the students by talking about the similarities they shared as both of them being people of color, and of course chess.

Principal Kestel, played by Rachel Bay Jones, had no faith in the chess team and looked at it as a detention hall for students who were getting into trouble.

She told Mr. T that she had no faith in the team and threatened that she was going to cut their funding and give it to the football team.

Sedrick Roundtree, played by Corwin C. Tuggles, and Ito Paniagua, played by Jorge Lendenborg Jr. were the main student characters.

Each character had their own individual problems.

Roundtree was dealing with financial issues with his father played by Michael Kenneth Williams. They had their altercations, which was a good addition to the film for bringing out some other types of emotions.

Sedrick’s acting was horrible though. It was very cringy, unbelievable and exaggerated. The acting overall was poor which was a major downfall of the movie.

It was nice seeing Sedrick’s girlfriend, Chanayah played by Zora Casebere. His father was neglecting him and his mother passed away, so for him to have her was pleasing to see.

There was a scene where the team raised money to go to a state tournament and they were counting in at Roundtree’s house, and then his father came home and took the money and they had an argument, causing the son to leave the house.

Although the scene was short, it was interesting that it was incorporated and giving different perspectives to a movie about chess.

Eventually, an airline company offered to pay their way to the national tournament if they made it to that point, which they did.

Similarly to Roundtree, Paniagua’s issues stemmed from having financial issues as well. Initially, he was working at a car wash until he was fired after going to a chess tournament, and then his mother kicks him out of the house.

Eventually he was approached by a drug kingpin leading him to sell drugs.

Shortly after he goes down this path, police begin suspecting him, and they were already looking into him after another kid from the chess club was murdered, and police thought that the team had something to do with it.

In the end, the team wins the U.S. National Chess Championship, making them the first inner-city team to do so.

One of the team members, Marcel, played by Jeffry Batista, let the opponent’s clock run out without them knowing.

They both went to the restroom and talked, but when they returned that when they got back from the restroom, the opponent realized it and was shocked.

The twist was that Marcel let his clock run down too, which was just stupid.

If he was going to do that, what was the point of that entire segment being exaggerated. I’m not sure if that was a part of the true story, but regardless.

At the end, the audience is shown pictures of the real team are shown as adults with Mr. T.

It makes more sense that it was based on a true story since a lot of it was kind of all over the place.

Incorporating street life and chess in the same movie are very conflicting ideas to make a film about, and in this movie, it was done decent, although it was all over the place a little bit, but not too distracting.

In general, the movie was okay. It was not anything too outside of the box. It was an interesting story to tell because it is not something that is typically heard about, and it had a different aspect with it.

As a two-time state chess player, (subtle flex), chess is not that exciting, especially for a bunch of high schoolers.

Maybe their team just had better chemistry or were more passionate or something, but when I went, it was not that exciting.

There were some times that excitement was shown, but not as much as this movie showed.

Kids were not that excited to guess the next move on a chess game and that happy when they got the answer correct.

Maybe without it, the film would not be as interesting, but since I have that connection with chess, it just seemed fabricated.

Additionally, when they were at the tournaments, the teammates were communicating with each other during the matches which is illegal. Mr. T was telling the players what moves to make and how they should go about the game, which is also illegal.

It is understood that it is nitpicking, but having the personal experience with it, it is hard to not comment on it.

Overall, the movie had a good message, but the main faults in it is the volatility, the acting, and some of the minor mistakes in the game of chess that was displayed.

Rate: 2/5

Cam’ron Hardy can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.

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About the Contributors
Cam'ron Hardy, News Editor
Cam'ron is a junior journalism major. He previously served news editor and campus editor at The News. 
Ashanti Thomas, Photographer
Ashanti Thomas is a senior digital media major. She previously served as photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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