He Got Game (1998) / Drama

MPAA Rated: R for pervasive language, strong sexuality, some drug content and violence
Running Time: 136 min.

Cast: Denzel Washington, Ray Allen, Milla Jovovich, Rosario Dawson, Hill Harper, Ned Beatty, Jim Brown, Zelda Harris, Bill Nunn, John Turturro
Small role: Rick Fox, Rick Pitino, Dick Vitale, Bill Walton, Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, Stuart Scott, Heather Hunter
Director: Spike Lee
Screenplay: Spike Lee

Review published September 1, 1998

A man (Washington, Fallen) is released for a week from a penitentiary in order to try to coax his estranged basketball phenom son (Allen, Harvard Man) to go to Big State University, which is the governor's alma mater, in exchange for a shortened sentence. Unfortunately, his son is also getting everyone else in his life to play tug-of-war on his decision of what university to go to, showering him with special deals and lucrative offers. What makes it even harder is that the father was in jail for killing his mother.

Spike Lee (Clockers, Jungle Fever) does a masterful job creating a beautiful looking and at times powerfully moving look at the state of today's basketball recruitment process and also painting a lovely story between a father and son struggling to deal with hate and past sins. Lee ties in much religious themes, which at first seemed gimmicky, but makes sense after a while since the film deals with temptation, redemption and salvation.

Lee's film becomes bogged down a bit by one too many awkward scenes, and a strange choice for a score by Aaron Copland (Love and Money, Something Wild) which doesn't jibe well given the type of film it is.

Washington is terrific as usual, but NBA hoopster Ray Allen gives the most impressive performance as the talented ballplayer. A much overlooked gem by Lee and one of his best.

Qwipster's rating:

1998 Vince Leo