A rag-tag group of semi-pro and amateur football players are collected by an esoteric former coach for one last shot at the big time. Thanks to a football strike by dozens of pro players, and in some cases (notably Washington, the team of focus in the movie) entire teams, replacements are hired to keep the team's standings intact 'till the end of the season... they turn out to be even more awesome than the actual team they're replacing.
It's nasty out there...
This film provides examples of:
- All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Shane falls for the gorgeous head cheerleader for the Sentinels but in his defense, she's sweet, funny, and probably knows more about football than he does...even if she does drive like a maniac.
- She's a cheerleader who owns a sports bar. That has to be a Geeky Turn-On for sports fans.
- Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving: After the Bar Brawl, the coach tells the team that if anything like it happens again, there will be no place on the team for any of them... but for the record, he wishes he'd been there to see Martel get his ass kicked.
- Artistic License Sports: Assuming the league is an NFL Expy, the movie bends a number of rules for Rule of Cool and/or Rule of Funny. Most notable is the "Kick ass on one" play, in which every single member of the offense proceeds to beat up an opposing player, resulting in so many penalty yards that the next snap is on their own 1 yard line. Funny and cool... except by NFL rules, only one penalty can be enforced on a single play, meaning the Sentinels should have only been backed up 15 yards.
- As Himself: NFL announcers Pat Summerall and John Madden play themselves, doing the play-by-play for the football games in the movie.
- As the Good Book Says...: Preacher quotes part of Ezekiel 21:31 whilst in the middle of a bar fight.
- For the record, this is the passage: "And I will pour out mine indignation upon thee, I will blow against thee in the fire of my wrath, and deliver thee into the hand of brutish men, and skilful to destroy."
- Badass Boast: On the final play of the game, Andre Jackson lets the other team know how it's all going to end.Andre Jackson: We ain't losin' this game.
- Badass Preacher: One of the replacement players is a minister, and gets to kick some ass in the Bar Brawl.
- Not only that, he quotes Bible passages while beating the hell out of striking players attacking him.
- Bang, Bang, BANG: When Jamal shoots out Martel's windshield with his Glock, it sounds like a cannon firing.
- Bar Brawl: The pro players show up to taunt and mock their replacements. Said replacements end up in jail after the brawl. The pro players, on the other hand, likely ended up in the ER.
- Based on a True Story: of the 1987 NFL strike.
- Bash Brothers: Jamal and Andre Jackson, Shane's guards. Their dayjob is working as bodyguards for rapper ODB. They, uh, kind of let a mob of fans get ahold of him, when they get the phonecall to play football.
- In fact, it's mentioned that they used to be in pro ball together, but once one of them was traded to another team, neither performed up to par. Apparently, they only really kick ass when they're on the field together.
- Battle Cry: Jumbo, the Japanese Sumo wrestler turned offensive tackle has a good one.Jumbo: Nan desu ka?!!!!
- It approximates into something similar to 'who wants some?'
- The Berserker: Danny Bateman. Send him in and he'll pretty much flatten anything in front of him.
- Big Game: The Sentinels' playoff hopes are pinned on the game with Dallas at the end of the season. And all of Dallas's pro players have crossed the picket line.
- Bittersweet Ending: The replacements win the season for the Sentinels, but now that the strike is over, they all have to return to their mundane lives with little to show for it but the knowledge they definitely had what it takes.
- Breaking Speech: Martel drops one of these on Falco after his crossing the picket line means Falco is out of the lineup. It starts as a Backhanded Apology and quickly goes downhill from there.Martel: I just wanted to tell you before you left... I'm sorry. [...] I think it's terrible what they do to you guys. They make you believe that you're better than you really are. Then they pull the rug out from under you. The cruelest thing they can give guys like you... is hope. [...] [Annabelle] deserves better. You're a sinking ship. Don't drag her down with you.
- Bull Seeing Red: In football practice, the quarterback wears a red jersey as an indicator that the practicing defensive players aren't to tackle him. Bateman forgets this and savagely tackles Falco several times in practice, saying he's like a bull seeing red. Falco tells him "Red means stop!"
- Later on, when Martel (who is wearing a red shirt) is making fun of the deaf teammate, Falco tells Bateman, "Remember what I told you about red shirts? Forget it!" The bar brawl ensues.
- Captain Oblivious: Danny gets so caught up in his Berserker Rage that he often forgets the actual goal of the game, as when he recovers an onside kick and then keeps running around the field with it as opposed to downing the ball, forcing Falco to tackle him.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The replacement players hand this put to the pros in spades in the bar fight.
- Highlighted by Danny, a SWAT team captain and decorated war veteran, throwing primadonna QB Eddie Martel around like a rag doll.
- Curse Cut Short: A news clip is shown of Martel in the locker room trying to "explain" the Sentinel's strike when an angry team member walks up and says: "Do you know how much insurance costs on a Ferrari, motherf—"
- Dance Party Ending: The final scene of the film has the replacement players line dancing one more time to "I Will Survive."
- Distracted by the Sexy: Because the Sentinels' cheerleaders are almost all strippers, during their second game, the cheerleading squad breaks into an incredibly sexy and over the top dance sequence, which distracts the opposing team, and the referee, and results in the entire team being called for a penalty.
- Down to the Last Play: Subverted at first. They originally line up for a field goal with 12 seconds left to send the game into overtime, but Nigel admits that he has to miss the kick or the mafia will take away his pub. Falco turns the field goal into a fake and scores, but the play is called back by a penalty. Then the trope is played straight on the next play.
- Drives Like Crazy: Annabelle, as Shane once has the misfortune of learning when she drives him back to his boat.
- Dude, Not Funny!: In-universe example. In the bar, Martel starts making fun of the replacement players' deaf team member. They do not take it well.
- Expy: With his fedora and the way he holds his rolled up play sheet on the field, McGinty bears more than a striking resemblance to Tom Landry.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: One of Martel's teammates makes the mistake of calling Jamal (One of Shane's guards) a 'Son of a Bitch'. Jamal takes a moment to absorb the comment, then calmly shoots out the driver's-side window of Martel's sportscar.
- Fake Shemp: Probably alot during the football sequences, since they're all wearing pads and helmets, but most egregiously when they're in prison and Keanu has his hat on and pulled really low so you can't see his face.
- Fan Disservice: Do not bring a TV camera into the locker room with these players. You will regret it. "Olé, olé, olé, olé!"
- Fanservice Car Wash: The substitute cheerleaders turn out to be a bunch of moonlighting strippers. Their halftime show involved The Donna Summer song "Bad Girls," a snazzy red car, lots of soapy water, and the kind of dancing that usually involves dollar bills stuffed into a G-String.
- Foreshadowing: Coach McGinty tells Falco, after the latter changes a play to a hand-off when he expects a blitz coming, thus losing the game, that "winners always want the ball when the game is on the line." In the final minute of the last game of the movie, we get this exchange:McGinty: What's it gonna be, Shane?
Falco: I want the ball.
McGinty: Winners always do.
- Groin Attack: Nigel during the bar fight.Nigel: [beckons a really big guy] C'mon! C'mon! C'mon, STOP! [kicks the guy in the crotch] Let's play football, bitch! [kicks the guy in the forehead]
- The Heart: Invoked by McGinty as why he wants Falco over Martel; Shane is the heart of the team. His team toasts him the night before the final game in recognition of this as well (when they think he is gone for good).
- Indy Ploy: More than a few plays boil down to this and luck.
- Like Shane's reaction to the same player tackling him over and over: Let the guy through the defending line, then drill him in the face with the football. It works.
- Informed Ability: Martel is mentioned several times to be a very good quarterback, but hasn't brought the Sentinels to the playoffs in 7 years and shows nothing during the film that would agree with the comments.
- Insult Backfire:Martel: Nobody can beat Dallas with these losers.
Falco: I can.
Martel: This doesn't change anything, Falco! I'm an all-pro quarterback, I've got two Super Bowl rings! And you'll never be anything more than a replacement player.Shane: Yeah. Yeah, I can live with that.
- Martel seems to live to set himself up for these:
Murphy : The great thing about being deaf is that its easy to ignore assholes like you.
- "Deaf" does not mean "oblivious".
- It Has Been an Honor: Quoted by Falco at the end of the movie.Falco: Gentlemen, it has been an honor to share the field of battle with you.
- Jerk Jock: Most of the pro ballers are portrayed this way, but especially Martel, who rags on the deaf guy... Because he's deaf.
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Just when it looks like Martel is about to apologize to Falco for all of the Jerkassery he and the original team did to him, it turns out to be a speech just to condescend and insult him even more.
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: The tail end of Shane's one meeting with the head cheerleader is overlapped with some surprisingly fitting play-by-play from John Madden.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Right after Martel finishes ragging on the deaf player for being deaf, Danny walks in and, with a go-ahead from Shane, puts Martel in the ER.
- The Last Dance: For the replacements, the final game of the season against Dallas is this. With the player's strike coming to an end, this will be their last game in the pros. And they know it.
Madden: Absolutely. Washington is playing like there's no tomorrow... because there isn't.
- Lightning Bruiser: Just watch Danny run, and then flatten people without breaking stride.
- Made of Iron: Danny again, as witness the big Bar Brawl where he goes relatively unscathed for all the damage he does to the pro players.
- Male Gaze: Both in the movie, and in real life. In the movie, all the replacement cheerleaders are strippers. You do the math.
- Mr. Fanservice: A majority of the replacement players but Keanu Reeves is in top form in this movie and may cause a bit of swooning for the female (and some male) viewers.
- Ms. Fanservice: The cheerleaders, even more than usual, since most of them are strippers.
- Musical Episode: After the Bar Brawl, the replacements are thrown in jail. They bond, and use the time until being bailed out to sing and dance together to 'I Will Survive'.
- New Rules as the Plot Demands: "Kick Ass on one" really should've resulted in most of the team getting thrown out of the game. But who cares?
- Not This One, That One: "You see the yacht with the satellite dish?... Mine's the houseboat covered in pigeon shit next to it."
- Odd Friendship: Bateman and Wilkinson. In a weird sort of way, the cop and the convict seem to understand each other from the get go more than most of the rest of the team do.
- Oh, Crap!: The dawning realization on Martel's face as the Replacements surround him during halftime of the final game of the movie just drips this trope.
Jumbo: HOLY SHIT!
- Then there's the scene where Jumbo winds up with the ball...
Jamal: Let's haul ass round boy!!
- Once Done, Never Forgotten: Falco choked and cost Ohio State the Sugar Bowl. Every person he meets brings it up within five seconds of meeting him.Falco: Didnt anybody have anything better to do that day?
- Rabid Cop: Danny Bateman. Being a football movie, the "rabid" part figures much more prominently than the "cop" part, but in the one scene where we do see him at his day job — during a SWAT raid — he's just as no-holds-barred as he is on the football field.Coach McGinty: I hope he doesn't kill someone.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Replacements. The montage of the team introductions and their first time being together showcase how each of them have some issues, but are well-meaning deep down. And they get better.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: The movie is loosely (very loosely) based on the real-life 1987 NFL strike. The Washington Redskins actually won three games without any of their regular players, and went on to Super Bowl XXII. They won, but the movie doesn't actually go that far.
- The Sentinels beating a Dallas team whose entire team has crossed the picket line is true. The 1987 Redskins Replacements actually beat a Dallas team that had more than 20 "real professional" players, including starting quarterback Danny White, defensive tackle Randy White and running back Tony Dorsett.
- The multi-fumble play was also based on real life. In another shocker, Madden was COACHING one of the teams involved with said play at the time it happened.
- Redemption Quest: This happens to Shane Falco. Falco had notoriously choked in the final game of his college career, and performed miserably in his little time as a pro, so this last chance at the game represents a chance for him to erase that image.
McGinty: You've been given something every athlete dreams of: a second chance. And you're afraid of blowing it. We all are.
- All of the replacement players have this mindset, and Coach McGinty is in the same boat himself. He points this out in the briefing before the second game.
- Retired Badass: Shane and McGinty, respectively.
- Rousing Speech: McGinty busts out one of these before the beginning of the second half of the final game of the movie;McGinty: Listen up! This time tomorrow... The strike will be officially over. Now Dallas has made a big mistake out there tonight— They haven't been afraid of you. And they should be, because you have a powerful weapon working for you. There is no tomorrow for you. And that makes you all Very. Dangerous. People!
- Scary Black Man: Earl Wilkinson, the player on loan from a prison. He's a good guy and a great football player, but his record and the fact that he's a Perpetual Frowner spook even one of the coaches.Coach: Well, there's no use standing here alone... outside of screaming distance... [Walks very quickly towards the stadium with Wilkinson trailing behind him.]
- Shown Their Work: Most of the football scenes are very accurate and includes a recreation of "The Immaculate Deception" or "Holy Roller" play.
- "Shut Up" Kiss: When he comes out to the field for the second half of the final game, Shane heads right over to Annabelle, listens to her give football advice for a few seconds, then makes good use of this trope.John Madden: He seems to be neckin' with that cheerleader! That's what he's doin'!
Pat Summerall: You know, players are not supposed to be fraternizing with the cheerleaders.
John Madden: Yeah, but what are they gonna do, Pat? Fire him?
- Spell My Name with an "S": In an interesting variation of this trope, Nigel, the team's kicker, is 'why-ree'.
- Taking a Third Option: In the final game, Nigel, the team's kicker, reveals on the last play that he's going to lose his bar to some Mafia guys because he owes them money from betting at the track. They're forcing him to blow the kick to make up for it. Shane can either let Nigel blow the kick, and lose the game, or try and get a replacement (a replacement replacement?) kicker before the timeout runs out. He decides on a third option in a dramatic snap-cut. He takes the ball and runs, flattening several opposing players blocking his path. It works, but the play is negated by a holding penalty.McGinty [to Falco]: Someday you're going to have to tell me what just happened.
- Theme Music Power-Up: Ostensibly, Falco's return for the final game of the movie cues this, as the theme for pretty much
anyevery sports movie kicks up as he runs onto the field.
- Third-Person Person: Clifford Franklin is giving a television interview. Clifford Franklin is this trope.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: While the movie draws on a number real life inspirations, the Washington Redskins team that went 3-0 with replacement players during the 1987 NFL players strike served as the primary basis. That team even won a significant Monday Night Football game over the hated rival Dallas Cowboys who had most of their regular players back.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Might wanna lay off the eggs, Jumbo.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Martel isn't seen after the replacement players surround him and drag him elsewhere.
- A deleted scene shows that they shoved Martel into a storage room and locked him in there, with only a tiny television so he could watch the second half of the game.
- The Whole World Is Watching: The disastrous Sugar Bowl performance that effectively ended quarterback Shane Falco's pro career before it began is heavily implied to have been such an event, as numerous characters bring up the game upon meeting him. After one such conversation, he even quips, "Didn't anybody have anything better to do that day?"
- Working-Class Hero: The replacement players eventually win over the fans because they're regular guys like them, not "superstars who want eight million a year instead of seven."
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: The first "game-winning" play, called back by a penalty.
That's why girls don't play the game.