Critic Reviews



Based on 10 critic reviews provided by
What distinguishes this screen adaptation of Peter Gent’s bestseller is the exploration of a human dimension almost never seen in sports pix. Most people understand that modern-day athletes are just cogs in a big business wheel, but getting that across on the screen is a whole different matter. And in large measure, that success is due to a bravura performance in the lead role by Nick Nolte.
Washington Post
Profanely funny, wised-up and heroically antiheroic, North Dallas Forty is unlikely to please anyone with a vested interest in glorifying the National Football League.
Washington Post
It's a riveting look at what goes on behind the scenes -- mainly pills, booze and shots. If you ever entertained any fantasies about America's autumnal rite's being good clean fun, this movie should set you straight...At the same time, North Dallas Forty is terrifically funny, done with enough humor and wit to offset any potential heavyhandedness -- a Burt Reynolds movie with bite. [3 Aug 1979, p.25]
It's not exactly news that pro football is just big business with the cleats showing. But North Dallas Forty brings the news home in fresh, funny and powerful ways. It's a bitter comedy of Sunbelt manners that packs a substantial emotional wallop. Director Ted Kotcheff, who stays faithful to the spirit of the novel by Peter Gent (an ex-Dallas Cowboy), captures the vulgar, born-again spirit of nouveau riche Dallas society, but he never condescends. The cogs caught in this corporate wheel always remain sweatily human - this is a locker-room satire with soul. [6 Aug 1979, p.55]
Chicago Sun-Times
The locker room scenes are totally authentic.
The central friendship in the movie, beautifully delineated, is the one between Mr. Nolte and Mac Davis, who expertly plays the team's quarterback, a man whose calculating nature and complacency make him all the more likable, somehow.
The picture breaks down awkwardly when it tries to express directly what it has already said better by implication. This generally occurs in earnest scenes between Elliott and his all too dense girlfriend. Dayle Haddon's inexperienced playing adds nothing even faintly convincing to the badly written love interest, and the rest of the film has to struggle to recover from the resulting dead spots. Still, North Dallas Forty retains enough of the original novel's authenticity to deliver strong, if brutish, entertainment.
Pro football fans may be disillusioned by this excellent, honest, and often brutal expose of the play-for-pay game.
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Despite these advantages, North Dallas Forty's descents into farce and into the lone man versus the corrupt system mentality deprive it of real resonance. It's still not the honest portrait of professional athletics that sport buffs have been waiting for. It is, though, a stylish cut above most films of this type. [4 Aug 1979]
Time Out
Something of a mess, both in terms of the wayward plot which rambles all over the place, and in terms of the rather muddled juggling of audience sympathies.

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