Cast:  Jim Youngs, Pelé,  Billy Warlock, Leon Russom, Mario Van Peebles and Penelope Anne Miller

Year of release: 1986

Director: Rick King

Plot: A rookie soccer player travels to Brazil to enlist a retired professional player to coach him.  


Side note: This week’s classic reel selection is in memory of soccer legend and 3 time World Cup winner;
 Pelé  (Edson Arantes do Nascimento) who passed away on the 29th of December, 2022.


This classic sports drama, probably half-forgotten these days, will appeal to both soccer and non-soccer enthusiasts. While it received a moderate reception when it first came out, "Hot Shot" is  inspiring as it is a film about self-growth, loyalty, and finding your own identity and path in life. And of course, the added bonus of featuring the late soccer legend, Pelé. 

"Hot Shot"'s lead character, Jimmy Kristidis, chaffing under his wealthy (and overbearing) Greek American parents’ ploy to dictate his life, chooses to drop out of school and become a professional soccer player. His only ally is his best friend Vinnie (“Days of our Lives” alum, Billy Warlock) as they both train to be able to be worthy of a football club, The Rockers. Although they both achieve their goal,  Jimmy’s several issues, the main one being his arrogance and lack of team spirit, draws the ire of the other players, the coach, and the club’s owner/manager. His shortcomings deter his aspirations, despite his love of the game, causing him to be benched several times and deemed 'not good enough'.  After several reprimands and a suspension without pay,  Jimmy has a wake-up call and travels to Brazil, seeking his long-time idol for further training. 

His idol is Santos, (
Pelé playing a semi-fictionalized version of himself), a decade-retired Brazilian player, who Jimmy finds living on a remote farm. Santos, content with his quiet life, is friendly but reluctant and refuses his request; but takes him in as a guest to help him around the farm. Santos is firm about soccer being behind him for good but is patient with Jimmy; listening to his story, which is told via several flashbacks. A close companionship builds between the two

men as they work on the farm and talk, considering their age gap.

Pelé is  articulate despite his heavily accented English. His character of Santos is an enigma as it’s not clearly stated why he retired or his reluctance to speak to the press. When he finally agrees to train Jimmy, the viewers are treated to a rigorous training regime (reminiscent of Rocky and Apollo’s in Rocky III sans gym);  Pelé  showcasing his signature moves, including the famous ‘bicycle kick’.
  Footage of his real-life triumphs on the field added flair to the film and we are reminded just how Pelé left his mark on football forever, his character Santos almost overshadowing Jimmy. Penelope Ann Miller (making her debut) was sadly underused as she appeared as Jimmy's love interest but wasn't seen for the rest of the film. 

What actually made the film was Jimmy being a better person than a better player and knowing what was more important, and he wasn't only the one who learned that. Whatever his reason for retiring, Santos also realised how he couldn’t escape his past (after getting an empathy) and was more than eager to pass the torch to his American mentee in the end.

Overall, "Hot Shot"  is an enjoyable watch, though predictable, and brings a feeling of nostalgia for the pre-Internet/digital era.



 Pelé retired from football in 1977 and was 46 years old at the time of the film's release. 


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