White Men Can't Jump (1992) Poster

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Woody and Wesley when dey was cool
Dan DeVore12 March 2005
Undeniably Hoosiers would get the win, if they ever polled film buffs and critics asking what the best movie is revolving around basketball. Hoosiers, the movie about a failing Indiana high school basketball team being led to success by their new coach played by Gene Hackman and the drunken assistant coach (Dennis Hooper) has enjoyed its fair share of the spotlight. Granted the field of movies about basketball isn't nearly as deep as say movies with plots concerning baseball or boxing, Hoosiers still generally beats out what little competition there is.

However in my opinion the best movie to ever capture the game of hoops is the criminally underrated and underseen White Men Can't Jump, by director Ron Shelton. Shelton also brought us the more popular baseball film Bull Durham and the golf flick Tin Cup. But I'd argue White Men Can't Jump is his centerpiece. The story revolves around two street court b-ball hustlers. One new in town, smooth, and white (Woody Harrelson), undoubtedly to his advantage. The other man, a black, a veteran of the LA courts, and fast-talking (Wesley Snipes). After Harrelson hustles Snipes the two form an unlikely partnership "ebony and ivory" but as always it is on edge and lacks a required amount of trust.

For a film that was released in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating and the L.A. riots and just before the O.J. Simpson debacle, White Men Can't Jump is surprisingly mature, witty, light hearted and open-minded in its approach to the race issue. Ron Shelton's dialogue is amazingly rapid fire and smart. It bites and certainly has a sting to it, but it's all in good fun. The multi-flamboyant personalities on the outdoor L.A. street courts hustler each other, crack "yo-mama" jokes with one another, and try to look better than the other. This is the movie that really put Wesley Snipes on the map and showed that Woody Harrelson was far more than just another face in the "Cheers" ensemble. Both provide excellent work in not only playing the characters but also learning how to play basketball and talk like actual street hustlers. There's very few standins here. Both Snipes and Harrelson learned to play the sport as well as any actor could be expected to. Rosie Perez is good as Harrelson's annoying and overbearing Puerto Rican girlfriend. If any one word can describe White Men Can't Jump, that word is "fun." The movie tackles serious issues like hustling, family, relationships, race, life in poverty, and gambling debts. However if Robert Rossen's pool hall film The Hustler presented the dark side of the life, Ron Shelton's White Men Can't Jump shows the flip side of the coin. How hustling can be fun and games.

Grade: A-
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Lively Basketball Adventure.
Robert J. Maxwell12 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
You don't have to be a fan of basketball to enjoy this feel-good, humorous, dramatic, and lively story of two very good players, Wesley Snipes as Sidney and Woody Harrelson, and their women, Rosie Perez and Tyra Ferrell.

What lingo on the courts! What scurrilous insults are hurled back and forth with no one blinking an eye, what elegant contumely -- "Chump!", "Go on back to Mayberry," "Is your head made out of braille?" The basketball games played on neighborhood courts in LA are well shot, and the slow motion, finally, occupies an appropriate space in the narrative. Snipes, who is black, is a terrific action figure and his insults approach the rococo. Woody Harrelson, who is white, is not quite in the same acting league but manages to carry the part of Snipes' partner in the hustling game quite well. We don't get to see much of Snipes' wife, Tyra Ferrell, who wants nothing more than for her man to get a steady and sufficiently rewarding job to get them out of Vista Vue Apartments, where "there is no vista and there is no view and there sure as hell is no view of no vista." Perez also has vague longings of settling down and gives Harrelson two grand to buy smart-looking suits so he can make an impression in job interviews. (He squirts the money away, as usual.) The game of basketball, although it takes up considerable film space, is really not much more than a tool that allows the film makers to explore the relationship between a white guy and an African-American guy, neither of whom is more than usually predisposed towards racial harmony. There's an entertaining comic argument about whether Harrelson, who enjoys listening to Jimi Hendrix on the tape deck of his dilapidated car ("a classic") can really HEAR Hendrix. It's not enough just to LIKE him. Snipes is nonplussed to learn that Hendrix's drummer was a white guy.

The movie is a fantasy. The likelihood of these two oddly matched hustlers making scads of dough on the courts of Watts, and walking away with their body parts intact, never mind the money, isn't particularly high. Three of the characters -- Snipes, Harrelson, and Perez -- are extraordinarily bright and articulate within the limits of their conventions. Perez wins more than ten thousand dollars on "Jeopardy." And the two men are whizzes on the court. The film SEEMS to be about race, but it's not. Except for the insults, race doesn't enter into the story at all. Harrelson might as well be black himself. He not only talks the talk, he dribbles the dribble. The whole issue of white racism and black solidarity is swept under the rug.

That's not to denigrate the movie. It's a lot of fun. The air on the courts is foggy with the most gut-churning calumny. It becomes poetic at times. And the movie never turns sentimental. There are no important speeches on how we all have to live together -- men and women, as well as black and white. Thank God for small favors. The friendship that develops between Snipes and Harrelson never turns "warm." Like most male friendships, it turns on instrumental behavior -- joint effort on the courts. And the movie ends on exactly that kind of note.

Not bad.
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Branko Collin7 September 2003
This movie is well-made: it tells a good story, and maintains high production values. The playing-off of different cultures does not really work, but then again that was not central to the story. The hustler being hustled theme could have done with some more Roald Dahl-like wit, but all in all this is an amusing comedy (it does not reach out enough to be considered a dramedy) and a worthy rental for those boring winter evenings.
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RanchoTuVu22 September 2005
A gritty comedy set in some tough LA neighborhoods about two basketball hustlers, one white (Woody Harrelson), the other black (Wesley Snipes). After hustling each other, they finally team up to play in a tournament, where with a combination of skill and trash talk they defeat the two guys who normally would have left them in the dust. The trash talk gets silly at times, while the subplot of underworld characters who are chasing Harrelson for an unpaid debt seems to be there only to explain logically why he hustles in the first place, as if he would do something else with his life. In any event, the games go from Venice Beach to Watts, and the settings are as good as the stars. Especially so are the cheap motels where Harrelson and girlfriend Rosie Perez have to live, and the inner city apartment where Snipes and his wife Tyra Ferrel call home, all of which adds up to a realistic slice of life at the time, which now seems to look quite a bit different. Intelligently written and well photographed, it has laid in the back of the shelves at countless video stores waiting to be rediscovered.
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Can you, or should you hustle a hustler?
Spikeopath15 January 2009
After Billy Hoyle hustles Sidney Deane on the basketball court, Deane offers Billy a proposition about teaming up to hustle the courts of Los Angeles. They are a great team, they are in fact wonderful players, but egos and greed are sure to become a problem, oh and Billy has some rather unsavoury characters after him to return a debt he owes. Can the boys resolve their differences? Can they keep their devoted women happy? All will be revealed in White Men Can't Jump.

White Men Can't Jump is a fine sports movie, offering up more than just a basic sport heart, it's funny, sly and really a rather effective piece of drama. The basketball scenes are very well handled by director Ron Shelton, with slow motion spins and beady drips of sweat glistening in the heat, and the chemistry between Woody Harrelson (Billy) and Wesley Snipes (Sidney) is first class, but really it's the power of Shelton's writing that makes this a most engaging picture (see also Bull Durham & the similarly undervalued Tin Cup).

After following these two guys thru their very rocky relationship you get to a point where you feel that we are about to wander down formula road, but Shelton pulls a trick to make the final last quarter an excellent, none conformity piece of film, one that judging by the less than favourable rating on this particular site, has not been wholly appreciated. Shame that, because other than Rosie Perez doing her best to annoy the viewers to death as Billy's suffering girlfriend Gloria Clemente, White Men Can't Jump is one of the better sports movies of the 90s. 7.5/10
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Greed and Basketball. How Can You Not Like This Film?
tfrizzell15 March 2001
Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson team up on the playgrounds of L.A. to hustle all comers. The direction is sharp and the cinematography is surprisingly impressive as the mean streets of Los Angeles are caught with striking camera shots. The under-rated screenplay is intelligent, focused, and clever. All in all "White Men Can't Jump" is far from being a classic, but it is still a fine film that is better than many think. 4 stars out of 5.
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The Funniest Sports Comedy Ever
claudonio6 February 2000
"White Men Can't Jump" is an hysterically funny movie that is one of the funniest I've seen. Director Ron Shelton has made other sports comedies before but this is his best one. Wesely Snipes and Woody Harrelson play off each other perfectly and make a memorable team. This film is highly profane but it has very inventive and witty dialoge. A very funny film.
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Funny, Wacky and Friendly
Falcon-5114 October 1999
Wesley and Woody are great together. Perez is a plus. You don't have to be a fan of the game to love this movie. It's fast paced, funny and if you are a fan of hoops then you are in Basketball movie heaven. Hustle out to the video store and rent yourself a copy. The film also has more Mama jokes than you can shake a stick at.
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Borko Baric28 June 1999
This is a truly excellent movie! Lots of people have bashed it as a "basketball" movie, but the truth is, it ain't about basketball at all. It could have been hockey, dart playing or curling, it wouldn't matter. It's about human weaknesses and making new friends. Rosie Perez gave probably her best performance ever, and the interplay between Harrelson and Snipes is great. Don't miss it.
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The Hustler of Basketball Movies
Brian Washington14 April 2003
Ron Shelton does it again. He does a great job of capturing the culture of basketball hustlers and how they go from court to court hustling games and making money. He gets everything right even down to the trash talk on the court. Woody Harrelson is perfect as the n'er do well Billy and Wesley Snipes is perfect as the fast talking Sidney. This also to me is the breakout performance of Rosie Perez. Perez is perfect as Billy's kookie girlfriend Gloria. This film is definitely a classic.
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Watched it a hundred times
terrmoore5 January 2008
Every chance I get I will watch this movie when it is broadcast. I just love it, if not for the sport, but the characters and the scenery. I feel like I am at a California Beach with them. I love the way Wesley and Woody interact with each other and could not imagine any other actor taking either of their places. I wish they would have made a WMCJ II. Their skill in playing is quite remarkable and very entertaining. Their lines that they hit off each other with immediate comebacks are very witty. The admiration that they had for each other was kept very well hidden until the director decided to let you get a glimpse of their feelings. A great movie with great actors.
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not really about basketball at all
david ford11 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
A movie that on the surface appears to be about sport - basketball- has a much deeper undertone if you look closer, a movie that uses the sport as a metaphor for the distinctions between blacks and whites in America. I've always loved this movie, i first saw it many years ago when i was about 14 and felt the wit and chemistry between harrelson and snipes is top notch, now im older i see things i didn't see before. Personally i feel you can take the movie in two ways. you either see it as a buddy comedy or a movie which shows how blacks and whites view each other. the way in which snipes is presented may be a cliché - black man, ultra confident, feels that coz hes black hes better than harrelson - but is this a cliché? most of the black guys in the movie feel that harrelsons character billy is a 'chump', and are quick to put him down. even the movies title 'white men cant jump' is a thinly vieled reference to the viewpoint of black America. this is not a racist perspective, its simply how it is, sidney (snipes) even gets into a discussion with harrelson about jimmy hendrix, about his apparently white drummer and how billy cant listen to hendrix, he can only hear him. billy for his part, uses the fact that hes a white guy to his advantage when he and snipes are hustling. these class colour elements serve to make white men cant jump a far better movie than it is given credit for, and is worth a better look if you think its just another sports comedy. David Ford
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Enjoyable Basketball Comedy
gcd7023 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Basketball comedy "White Men Can't Jump" doesn't necessitate a love for the all American game that has recently been sweeping the globe in a wave of popularity. This is mainly due to the genuinely funny script which cleverly makes use of white/black cultural comparisons while tastefully playing the two ethnic groups against each other, with enjoyable results.

Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes give two fresh, lively performances as a couple of basketball hustlers who go from court to court taking on other hot shot players in high priced games of two on two. Some of their exploits land them in hot water, while Billy (Harrelson) has his hands full keeping his girlfriend (Rosie Perez) happy and staying one step ahead of gangsters (whom he owes money), Sidney (Snipes) struggles to keep his wife and child in the manner to which they would like to be accustomed. Woody's Billy Hoyle and Wesley's Sidney Deane spend a lot of time dissin' (running each other down) and bragging on their own talents. This, and Rosie Perez's nutty antics as a "Jeopardy" crazed flake, provides most of the humour, although watch for "Raymond's" attempt at armed robbery for the definite highlight.

Writer/director Ron Shelton has managed a script which is both interesting and funny enough to keep his audience entertained for the duration, and he has thankfully not fallen into the trap of winding up with an altogether happy and predictable ending.

Sunday, September 25, 1994 - Video
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Great Basketball Film
futuramafan11 March 2008
This has been one of my favorite movies ever. Wesley Snipes(From the "Blade" Series)and Woody Harrelson(Who was just in Semi-Pro)are two of the best actors ever and they are superb actors in this movie. If you are a fan of any sports movies i recommend you should see this movie as soon as possible. If you like Wesley Snipes or Woody Harrelson you will for sure love this movie. The plot of this movie is very good.

My overall rating on White Men Can't Jump is...


See it as soon as you can, rent it from a local movie store or even buy it and you will love it.
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Interesting Despite All-Sleazy Characters
ccthemovieman-113 September 2006
This was a popular movie probably because of the humor in it, the fast-moving story, an underdog character who shuts up all the loudmouths, etc. Funny thing is, you probably couldn't make a movie with this title if you substituted anybody but "white" as anything else would be deemed racist by the PC police.

Nonetheless, Woody Harrleson as the white guy who turns out to be as good if not better than any of the black basketball players, is interesting as is his main counterpart Wesley Snipes.

Snipes had a lot of funny put-down lines, providing much of the humor. The bad part of the film - which doesn't bother a lot of people - is the extreme profanity in here and the sleaziness of all the characters. That includes Woody's girlfriend, played by Rosie Perez. There are no really clean, nice people in this movie. For that reason, I can't honestly recommend the film, at least not to friends or those who are offended by a lotof profanity
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What is a four word phrase synonymous with disgustingly awful?- White Men Can't Jump
show_studs24 July 2000
Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes team up as hustlers on the basketball court. Okay, that sounds all right there. It leaves lots of room for good comedy and a good story. But no such event took place in the many following boring minutes of this pathetic attempt of a film. This movie became redundant, retarded, and ridiculous after the first twenty seconds had gone by. Woody Harrelson played one of my favorite t.v. characters, Woody from Cheers, and I was looking forward to seeing him in this movie. But after seeing his " acting performance " I have come to the conclusion that he should stay playing dumb country hicks who bartend. His acting was as dull and poor as the movie. Another actor in this unreal film was Rosie Perez. I have liked movies with Perez before, but I have decided that the reason I have enjoyed other works in her career was that she was not a main character and didn't have that many speaking lines ( Do the Right Thing ). But now in White Men Can't Jump she was made a central character with many lines, thus meaning that the audience has to put up with her incredibly annoying and whining voice. So after seeing this film ( term used loosely ) and hearing Rosie Perez for much more than appreciated I can now say that I'm a white man and I'm getting ready to jump . . . off a twenty story apartment building.
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Hip-Hop Basketball movie is good entertainment
jerome_horwitz4 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
White Men Can't Jump stars Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, and the quite sexy Rosie Perez. Filmed at the height of the hip-hop era, this movie is a basketball based comedy/drama that challenges some popular stereotypes.

The story begins as a dorky white boy, Billy played by Harrelson, becomes part of a street basketball scene in LA. He hustles the street smart black man, Sidney played by Snipes, by winning a 5 shot free-throw bet. Afterwards Sydney tracks down Harrelson and they begin basically what is a street basketball hustling operation, which they'll ride all the way to the top, or so it seems anyway.

There are a few sub-plots in this movie, which give a nice break from all the slow motion screen time of street basketball matches. The story features betrayal of many characters, with some mildly interesting situations.

The end is surprising, and I won't spoil it for you but things don't quite work out the way you think they will.

This movie has good production values, and enjoyable script and story, and solid acting by all characters. Perhaps the worst character in a way was Billy Hoyle, who was almost so stupid you'd never believe he could be good at anything. But for the movie's sake, it all works out and overall is a good enjoyable movie that doesn't really deserve any rewards, but will reward the viewer with a couple hours of good entertainment.

Except for the very brief nudity, I really see no reason for this movie to be rated R. There is vulgarity and adult situations as well. I really see no reason why teenage viewers would have a problem with viewing this movie, at most it would probably make them want to go play some basketball.

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Now that's how you make a film
AngryVengefulMonkey2 July 2003
This film has got to be one of the best i've ever seen. It grabs you right from the beginning when Billy and Sydney are first introduced to each other in one of my favourite scenes of any film. It has many different elements to it all brilliantly done comedy, drama, romance and of course the best of them all - basketball. The trash-talking on the courts is great to watch and no matter how many times I see it it still makes me laugh especially when Billy is trying to psyche out his opponents at the 'brotherhood' tournament. It's just one of those films that you can watch over and over again.

I rarely give a film 10/10 but this one deserves it WATCH THIS FILM your life will be better for it.
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White Men CAN Jump!
Dermot-631 May 2000
"Yo motha's an astronaut!" One of the classic trash talk lines from one of my favourite movies ever! Forget about those critics who slate this movie. They just don't have any b-ball blood in them. This is a must see for any true b-ball fan. I came out of the cinema and was still high from the final scenes of Billy (Woody Harrelson) jamming the ball. Another classic line was "I saw your Mom walking down the street kickin' a can, I asked her what she was doin? She said movin!". Excellent! Buy this movie NOW!
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The basketball hustling is fast, energetic and funny but the plot is flat, acting only as a frame for the on-court action
bob the moo26 August 2004
When Sidney Deane is beaten by goofy looking white boy Billy Hoyle he realises that he has been hustled. He seeks out Billy and the two of them strike up an uneasy partnership where they trade on his goofy nature to hustle on courts around LA. As their relationship grows, Sidney agrees to help Billy when he gets into trouble with some local gangsters whom Billy owes a lot of money to. However while they are sharp on court, neither of the pair have a great deal of luck or skill when it comes to their relationships with their female partners.

I must be honest and say that part of the reason I stopped playing/refereeing basketball in local leagues and playing on outdoor courts was because of the trash talking: good players who insist on every point and every call being the cue for insults and back chat instead of sportsmanlike behaviour. So I wasn't sure, watching it again after many years, that I would still like this film since so much of it is based on these very things. Despite my dislike of it in real life, it is actually the boisterous, fast talking, foul mouthed basketball matches that make this film fun to watch. The actual story is pretty weak when you look at it and it is easy just to see it as a basic frame that allows the on-court action to occur. The stuff involving Gloria and Rhonda is not as fun and not as convincing as the rest of the film. The stuff about the gangsters is also unlikely and is simply a plot device to set up an enjoyable tournament that serves as a fitting end to a series of one-off hustles. Of course, if you dislike basketball and dislike 'yo' moma' style banter then there will be little for you here, but I enjoyed it for what it is (even if it is starting to show its age in terms of dialogue, attitude and, most notably, the clothes!).

In fitting with the material, the male cast outshine the female cast. Snipes and Harrelson have good chemistry – so good in fact that they thought it could carry the rather poor Money Train (it couldn't) but here it works. They both give as good as they get but, given the 'goofy' nature of Harrelson's role, it is Snipes that comes off looking a lot better. Perez is a little annoying but no as much as she has been in other films and Ferrell doesn't make too much of a mark – only acting as a plot driver for Sidney to help Billy late in the film. Minor roles from people like Cozart and Hardison are very minor roles but generally they do their 'street-ball' clichés well enough.

Overall this is not a great film because of the weaknesses in actual plotting, however it is fun and energetic mainly because it never goes too long with some fast-talking basketball action. The games are well shot, funny, exciting and skillful and, if you like these, then you'll enjoy the film; otherwise, there isn't that much to tune in for.
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Sean-9622 April 1999
Don't believe any of those comments which claim this is a bad movie. However, I must admit if you do not come from a basketball background you won't appreciate it as much. If you love B'ball you'll go mad over this film.Woody and Wesley are perfect for the roles and go so well together. The one-liners really do make the film what it is, brilliant. Here are a few:

'Your momma's so fat she fell over broke her leg and gravy poured out.'

'I do detect a smell of cash, in the air'

'Ain't no thing but a chicken wing on a string from Burger King'

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Very Funny!
mmoore5 April 1999
After repeated viewing I still find this movie hilarious. I think to appreciate this movie you have to have a love for basketball from a schoolyard sense. I have seen this kind of play myself with the entire trash-talking going on. The basic concept is people who can't get control their lives the way they wanted, but know they can control the outcome of a basketball game because of their skills. The movie is funny without being stupid. I would recommend any basketball fan watch this movie.
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Masterpiece, and white men can't jump
NastyNostril2 January 2002
I gave this movie a 10, because it screamed one thing at me, "CLASSSIC MATT!" I loved it, even though some of the other people out there didn't feel that way. This is the perfect movie for a sports fan who's looking for a little comedy and drama to go along with it. Woody and Wesley go together like a vanilla chocolate. And they do a good job of sending the message that racism needs to stop, and b-ball needs to keep on going.
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