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|Index||65 reviews in total|
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
*** This review may contain 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
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.
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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