He Got Game (1998)

He Got Game

TOMATOMETER

AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: Though not without its flaws, He Got Game finds Spike Lee at or near the top of his late-period game, combining trenchant commentary with his signature visuals and a strong performance from Denzel Washington.


Movie Info

Denzel Washington does some of his best work as a prison inmate trying to earn himself an early release by talking his estranged son into playing basketball at the governor of New York's alma mater.

Rating: R (For pervasive language, strong sexuality, some drug content and violence)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Spike Lee
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 10, 1998
Runtime:
Buena Vista

Cast


as Jake Shuttlesworth

as Jesus Shuttlesworth

as Dakota Burns

as Lala Bonilla

as Coleman `Booger' Syk...

as Mary Shuttlesworth

as Spivey

as Warden Wyatt

as Uncle Bubba

as Aunt Sally

as Martha Shuttlesworth

as Coach Billy Sunday

as Big Time Willie

as Coach Cincotta

as Chick Deagan

as Dom Pagnotti

as D'Andre Mackey

as Prison Guard Books

as Prison Guard Burwell

as Jesus Shuttlesworth ...

as Booger (age 12)

as Mary Shuttlesworth (...

as Himself

as Himself

as Himself

as Himself

as Himself

as Himself

as Himself

as Himself

as Himself

as Himself

as Himself

as Himself

as Himself

as PSAL Announcer

as TV Announcer

as Tech U Announcer

as Doctor Cone

as Clerk in Motel

as Sneaker Clerk

as Mary's Friend

as `I Love You' Leech

as `I Love You' Leech

as `I Love You' Leech

as `I Love You' Leech

as `I Love You' Leech

as `I Love You' Leech

as `I Love You' Leech

as `I Love You' Leech

as Man with Gat

as Female in Sex Montag...

as Suzie

as Correction Officer
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for He Got Game

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Critic Reviews for He Got Game

All Critics (61) | Top Critics (19)

Lacking the moral indignation and militant politics of Lee's former work, this vibrantly colorful father-son melodrama is soft at the center, but it's one of the most accessible films Lee has made and Denzel Washington is terrific.

Full Review… | March 25, 2008
Variety
Top Critic

At the end of Mr. Lee's movie, all you feel is the distraction of Mr. Lee's stylistic exhibitionism, without which, I concede, he might not be regarded as a genius in some quarters.

Full Review… | April 27, 2007
New York Observer
Top Critic

[Lee] gets a charming performance from Allen, who, in his acting debut, occupies his pedestal with grace and diffidence.

Full Review… | March 25, 2007
Slate
Top Critic

As usual, Lee tries many kinds of stylistic effects and uses wall-to-wall music (by Aaron Copland and Public Enemy); what's different this time is how personally driven the story feels.

Full Review… | March 25, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Most scenes play too long, with a surplus of ideas, textures, tones and characters, and after 134 minutes it's clear Lee's problem with closure hasn't gone away.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Washington's Jake Shuttlesworth looks tough and hard, an odd but refreshing turn for an actor long associated with handsomely heroic roles.

Full Review… | June 18, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for He Got Game

½

Spike Lee, dare I say, is the first Hollywood spokesman of black culture, and what do you know, Denzel's involved with another one of his projects, "He Got Game".

"He Got Game" may just seem like just another basketball movie but underneath the hood is a compelling story about tension between a father and son. And for the most part, the story sells itself. Coupled with the great Denzel and even Ray Allen, there's a lot of opportunity. However, because this film was made near the beginning of the permeation of black culture into Hollywood, it fails to develop a true tone that encapsulates what black culture is truly about. Don't get me wrong -- Spike Lee vividly portrays the culture through the narrative, but the writing and the score becomes extremely tacky. Raw and gritty scenes occur throughout which is, at times, shocking but it's all paired with a very "Disney" like music. It's extremely jarring.

In the end, it's all about how effective the movie was. And was it? Absolutely. With the sharp direction from the eyes of Spike Lee, to the superb acting from Denzel, "He Got Game" not only sells itself as a captivating story, but also as a solid film.

Albert Kim
Albert Kim

Super Reviewer

½

Great visuals and performances though it falls short in the end, still a worthwhile minor work from Spike Lee.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

Spike Lee is one of the very few filmmakers possessing the heart and soul of an auteur, but none of the self righteousness. He Got Game is a perfect example of the directors sensibilities. Most basketball movies tell coming of age stories against gritty backdrops that all lead up to some big game. Lee's film is practically void of all such cliches. The central narrative does build around a father trying to reconnect with his son, but the narrative progresses in ways that most screenwriters or directors would be afraid to allow.
The movie explores how everyone - agents, politicians, legal guardians, even girlfriends - scrambles to get a piece of the possible glory and money behind a rising high school basketball star. But it also maintains a central focus on the basketball star and how close he is to reaching his dreams. This allows for an interesting mix in tones, where the character's field of dreams mixes with the harsh reality of the sport as a commercial entity, filled with people who's only goal, like in all business, is to make money.
At the heart of it all is Denzel Washington, a convicted murderer who happens to be this young star's father. He is let out on temporary parole to try and get his son to sign with a particular university basketball team. If he does, he might be released permanently. Regardless of the outcome, this allows the father to find some redemption in helping his son figure out his life. The end is anti-climactic, but beautifully executed, displaying Spike Lee at his artistic best.

MovieGeek13
Edward Boxler

Super Reviewer

He Got Game Quotes

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