He Got Game Reviews
Like many of Spike Lee's films, He Got Game is a fairly indulgent film which runs at a slow pace for a long time which may phase viewers. Also, it constantly weaves back and forth between the storylines of Jesus Shuttlesworth as he attempts to decide which college basketball team to play for and the experiences Jake Shuttlesworth is experiencing on the outside world while also momentarily going through flashbacks. The general plot structure of He Got Game is relatively annoying at times and it doesn't find them sot sufficient balance between focusing on the two main stories which means that its entertainment value is not all that consistent.
Also, so many of the scenes in the film are dragged out and occasionally feel like they have stretched longer than they should be. And for a basketball film, I feel as if He Got Game spends a bit too much time on the side bench instead of out on the court and is more about discussing basketball than it is about playing the game.
But He Got Game is still a fairly decent film.
Spike Lee's script in He Got Game is just spot on and one of the best scripts he has written in his entire career. Full of firm and intelligent language as well as great characters, He Got Game is built on interesting roots. The only issue though is the fact that the story is not precisely as interesting because an entire 136 minute film about a man attempting to pick which college he should go to can only go so far with entertainment value. Spike Lee presses the limits of the film a lot so it's not the most consistently interesting film, but it does manage to back itself up with a lot of strong and very intelligent dialogue. You can see the angle that Spike Lee is taking on the story because of how he implements in concepts of social commentary about society's treatment of African-American students, particularly ones who show serious basketball promise. It also ties in the way that Basketball is important to the lives of many young African-Americans because it is both fun and may present an opportunity to them. He Got Game touches upon the same kind of material that Hoop Dreams did, only in a fictionalised manner. And it is not afraid to explore dark and lurid material, even if it ends up a little indulgent at times. While the story is not the most consistently interesting, it does have characters that are genuinely compelling and dialogue that is intelligent as well as a rough atmosphere.
The soundtrack in He Got Game is also great because it reinforces the gritty atmosphere of the film and makes the experience more rough and intense. At times it makes the atmosphere completely different to the standard conventions of filmmaking which makes the experience a little trippy, and it is interesting to experience.
And the entire visual style of the film is grand because the scenery is powerful and it is all captured with innovative cinematography techniques. Although occasionally the shots go on for a bit long, they are still good looking.
But the most memorable element of He Got Game is the skill of the cast.
Denzel Washington's performance in He Got Game is so greatly powerful. Working along with Spike Lee without challenge, Denzel Washington gives a performance which is intense and sympathetic at the same time. Although he really doesn't get enough screen time to be called the lead actor in the film, his performance is the best of the entire cast. It's a shame that his screen time is rather diminutive because he is such a legendary actor and reminds us all of it in his role as Jake Shuttlesworth in He Got Game. Denzel Washington delivers another powerhouse performance in He Got Game which makes the film worth seeing standalone.
Ray Allen also gives an impressive performance. It's not always easy for a professional athlete to transition into acting well, but Ray Allen manages to do it without the slightest bit of trouble. I was surprised to find out that this was his first performance and that he was actually a professional basketball player because he looked so young in the part. But nevertheless, his debut performance is excellent because he acts with such a natural strength and skill as if it comes to him as easily as playing basketball. Ray Allen gives an excellent leading performance in He Got Game because he is truly passionate about the material and about what the film means to him in terms of basketball, and Spike Lee proves to be able to get the best out of him which is impressive. Ray Allen's performance in He Got Game is one of the most memorable aspects of the film.
Rosario Dawson makes a memorable supporting effort in He Got Game simply because of the fact that in a few simple scenes she manages to make a dramatic impact on the story. She delivers her lines so organically and shares an easy but strong chemistry with the other actors which makes the experience of the film more emotionally effective and therefore more entertaining. Rosario Dawson's early performance in He Got Game foreshadows the immense talent she would later show off in her career.
Milla Jovovich's small dramatic supporting effort is also a nice touch to He Got Game.
So although He Got Game doesn't have the most interesting story, it is slow with an extended running time and is a little indulgent as many of Spike Lee's films are, the pure strength and grit in the film makes it dramatically effective as well as the fact that the acting is perfect and the dialogue is some of the best that Spike Lee has written in years which makes it worth checking out regardless of its negative elements.
"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.