"There are no second acts in American lives," F.Scott fizgerald wrote, and many continue to believe that's true. Not Angelo Pizzo and David Anspaugh, the screenplay writer and director of Hoosiers. They are convinced that lives can be reclaimed; just because one has messed up in the past doesn't mean one can't dig deep and start all over again.

In 1951, Norman Dale (Gene Hackman), an ex-college coach, accepts a job at the high school in Hickory, Indiana. He tells the basketball team that they all face a challenge "to see who we are and what we can be." Dale has a dark secret, and another teacher (Barbara Hershey) senses it: "A man who comes to a place like this, either he's runnin' away from something' or he has nowhere else to go."

Dale lifts the spirits of the small-town team and shows true strength of character by taking on Shooter (Dennis Hopper), the town drunk, as his assistant. Hoosiers dramatically conveys the tidal pull of excitement as David — the Hickory team — meets Goliath — a squad from a big city — in the Indiana state championship game. But the real thrill of the story is seeing Dale and Shooter at the helm of the underdog team. They stand tall in triumph, each a Lazarus who has walked away from his tomb.