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He Got Game
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Reviews & Ratings for
He Got Game More at IMDbPro »

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47 out of 56 people found the following review useful:

A Great Movie for Anyone Who Plays Ball at Any Level

10/10
Author: thekino from United States
17 January 2005

I recently watched this movie for the first time, and as a 19 year old black male it spoke to me. However, I can see this being a film that everyone can appreciate. Especially now, with Lebron James and other upcoming HS athletes, you really see the other side of life that only they know.

This movie detailed the life of the #1 basketball star in HS, and the issues he deals with before he announces his plans for the future, further complicated by his father's contingent release from jail.

A GREAT movie, don't let the votes fool you, it's not a 6.5/10, more like 8.5.

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30 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

A flawed film that still flies.

Author: moonchildpix (moonchildpix@earthlink.net) from Los Angeles
4 May 2003

My two favorite Spike Lee movies are "Clockers" and "He Got Game" and they share similarities: both are about guys trying to keep integrity amidst characters whose primary motives are to persuade him to leave the path.

"He Got Game" gets the edge because I love basketball and because I'm a sucker for well done father-son conflicts. The basketball parts of this movie are absolutely brilliantly shot. Most sports movies share two commonalities: completely ridiculous storylines and actors who throw like sissies. He Got Game avoids both.

Okay, some parts of the story are hoky, but allowable. But what makes this movie work, similar to "Clockers" is that you get sucked into a main character whose nobility is tested at every turn. Will Jesus Shuttlesworth make it through the maze or fall prey to it? And will he be able to recognize that his father is not just one more flesh peddler? It makes for good drama. But above that, the basketball scenes just completely rock. They're examples of absolutely masterful cinematography and editing. In fact, the movie has some of the best montage sequences every put on film. Seriously.

Denzel is excellent in this movie. He plays a Jeckyll and Hyde and plays both sides well. This conflicted character was very easy to root for. (I can identify.) NBA perennial All-Star Ray Allen, while more than a little stiff at times, holds his own as a non-actor in a dramatic role.

He Got Game is a flawed piece of work: parts drag, it's not without its hokiness, and the subplot with Denzel and Jojovovich didn't quite fit. But the essential storylines work and play true: you believe in a conflict between father and son and you root for a high school basketball player who requires the wisdom of an adult to avoid the flesh peddlers. Kudos to Spike for not trying to hit us over the had with his message, but letting it unravel naturally.

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23 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

Well Played

Author: Julia Hendrickson from Wooster, Ohio
10 December 2004

Spike Lee's He Got Game is a beautifully shot and well-executed exploration of the role that the sport of basketball plays in the relationship between a father and his estranged son. At the outset, having not seen very many other Spike Lee movies, I didn't really know what to expect or what to compare this film to. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the overall quality of the plot and the cinematography that composed this film. Furthermore, I really liked the definitive sense of Spike's style that was quite apparent throughout.

Told through flashbacks that reveal the plot throughout the course of the movie, He Got Game is about Jake Shuttlesworth (Denzel Washington) and his basketball-star son, Jesus (Ray Allen). Jake is in jail under mysterious circumstances, yet can get out of jail if he is able to convince Jesus to choose to play basketball at a specific school, namely the state governor's alma mater. Released for a week in order to complete the daunting task, he hounded by probation officers, and does a lot of things that he couldn't do in jail, such as have a light dalliance with Milla Jovovich's slightly-unnecessary prostitute character, Dakota Burns. Denzel, as usual, excellently handles his role as the intense father, and is utterly believable in both his emotion-laden and his violent, angry scenes.

Ray Allen's portrayal of Jesus is also an interesting and well-played usage of the strong dichotomy of masculinity in the sport of basketball. He very clearly shows the purer and more tender side of his character through his love for his younger sister, whom he lives with and takes care of. Yet he is torn between that and the glittering, vice-infested world that his ability at basketball brings him ever closer to. At times he does even succumb to the cloying ploys of others, and there is a particularly raunchy scene as evidence of this. Allen carefully and quietly allows the audience to see the conflicts between sensitivity and machoism that exist in his life, as a result of basketball.

Probably one of the more interesting ways in which this film is set up is through the use of comparative shots that allow the similarities of Jake and Jesus's actions to show. Jesus tries so hard to distance himself from his father, yet the shots and the camera framing show just how alike they both really are. I also particularly enjoyed the use of color and contrasts that appeared throughout. For instance when Jesus and his errant girlfriend LaLa (Rosario Dawson) are talking at the end of the film, both their faces vividly reflect a shade of jealous green from the amusement park lights.

Overall this film is a very good spin on the basketball sports movie, yet with no huge stadiums or big games to win the championship, like what usually constitutes a basketball movie. Instead, the two main characters go through much self-analysis and introspective maturing, something that is quite rare for sports-playing men in film to do. I liked the strong use of color and the well-framed shots, and especially enjoyed Denzel Washington's brooding performance. A classic, must-see movie for anyone interested in cinematography or film.

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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

A fascinating performance by Denzel Washington in a solid film.

8/10
Author: Rigor from Chicago, USA
4 November 1998

Denzel Washington has one of his greatest charcaters in Jake Shuttlesworth in this compelling film by Spike Lee. Jake is a man serving a life sentence for the accidental murder of his wife during a domestic dispute. The dispute centered around Jake's aggressive coaching of his young son Jesus who he is obsessed with turning into a basketball star. As the film opens we learn that Jesus (effectively played by Ray Allen) has indeed become a high school basketball star and is being now aggressively pursued by University teams and commercial agents. In a somewhat fanciful, yet unfortunately believable plot device the Governor promises Jake early release from prison if he can convince his son to go to Big State. Much of this film is amazingly well executed my only regret comes around some of the gender politics of the film (many of the female characters are underdeveloped and/or cartoonishly stereotyped). This is particularly unfortunate because the film has so much to say about the intersections of patriarchy/economic injustice/racism that I wish Spike Lee could have been a little more consistent with his development of the women characters (one notable exception is a brilliantly realized performance by Milla Javovich as a prostitute that rooms next to Jake). This said the film is still an important accomplishment and should be seen.

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17 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Who's wiser, the player or the father?

9/10
Author: nforgione08 from United States
13 December 2004

He got game is an exceptional story about a basketball player who quarrels with family issues and strives towards his dream. Directed by Spike Lee, this movie takes an in depth look at exactly how many variables are involved when being the MVP, and how a man can grow up and assess these circumstances.

Ray Allen plays a character who's name is Jesus Shuttlesworth. At a young age, his father pressed him dramatically to be the best he could be. However by mistake kills Jesus's mother and is sent to prison. The troubled child eventually grows up to become one for the best players in the nation. Now the drama builds up. When the decision to go pro or join a college team is just around the corner, Jesus's father (played by Denzel Washington) is let out of jail to convert his son to a specific school or else the father is returned to jail, it leaves Jesus with a daunting task. The reconcile between the father and son is what eventually allows Jesus to become a real man and face his problems.

The idea that a boy cannot live without his father plays a defined role in this movie. Jesus grows up with the responsibilities of taking care of his sister, who is several years younger than he is. While it appears that Jesus has all of the support in the world, Spike Lee does a terrific job of accentuating how they are really leeches. All the people want are money, fame, and fortune; which is all possible through Jesus. The reason the father plays such a key role is because although he needs Jesus's help, he isn't interested in that. He really loves his son.

Although Spike Lee did some amazing work with this movie especially with the inner city sequences, as well as the use of colors and poetry to his advantage for getting his ideas across to the audience, several scenes were unneeded which seemed overly explicit. Although these are truly issues that can ruin a famous person, they seemed almost too graphic to be seen by a general audience. What Spike does so well is keeping the real connections with the street, and enabling the audience to see exactly what the character is going through by using several techniques.

Colors in the movie such as red, green, and black symbolize power, pain, and respect between different characters. While Jesus hates his name, his father named him that through a basketball player that was how he put it, "the truth." This movie proves that in real life, you can benefit more by forgiving, and not forgetting.

Overall I would recommend this film to anyone who wants to see a unique, intellectual film that will make you think about your present situation, as well as allowing you to know the difficulties that come with fame.

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18 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

The most beautiful sports movie of all time

8/10
Author: Dockelektro from Portugal
26 September 2001

We could see just one more story about a man who loves his son, but which suffers from various handicaps, like being on parole and being watched all the time, like having no wife anymore due to killing her, and like his son being one of the most stellar basketball players of his time and this man being truck-loaded with the burden of convincing him to go to college. The film marches to the pace of the two leads, Jake Shuttlesworth (Denzel Washington) and Jesus Shuttlesworth (real-life NBA player Ray Allen, which makes a startling debut), as they have continuous face-offs: Jesus won't accept that he has a father, and won't listen to him, being more interested in becoming an NBA star, as the managers, the limelights, the fame and the fortune keep calling him like the chant of the sirens. Jesus is a young boy with a foot on each side. And he is facing options, choices he will have to make, and traps he will have to avoid. As a friend of his says (in the movie's most memorable quote) "How do you spell pussy? H. - I. - V.". This could be one more tale of choosing between college or fame and fortune, ths could be one more tale of a destroyed father-son relationship, but this is Spike Lee, and the treatment is totally different. It starts with an incredible hommage to basketball, shot like a picture poem, to the sounds of Aaron Copland, whose music flows through the whole movie and makes it look more beautiful and poetic. A characteristic Spike Lee movie, which introduces us to a new way of facing sport dramas. To be cherished.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

A real victory for film making, but not without it's drawbacks.

8/10
Author: fingerscut from Caddy
11 August 2006

It's hard to write a review for a sports movie, there's just a different standard for them. Their plots are usually contrived to a level of laser precision. They seem almost designed to make you feel good, which while admirable in the scheme of life, just isn't good film making.

For us sports fans, a sports film that comes across as 'above average' instantly becomes classic. This hardly seems fair, just because the film had some scenes of athletic competion doesn't mean it shouldn't have to face the same standards as the rest of the silver screen.

But this is a movie that goes against that grain. It's sincerely good by anyone's standards. The acting, even that of NBA Star Ray Allen's, is on-par with anything else out there. Bonus points for any film where Denzel Washington isn't playing Denzel Washington(even though I enjoy many of those films).

Beautifully shot, the cinematography throws a pinpoint assist to the script and makes normally great scenes memorable and occasionally transcendent. The film hits with such power that it really exposes other sports movies for the fluff that they really are. Spike Lee manages to create a film that, while deep in the world of basketball, still can appeal to a non-sports fan. Unlike the 2006 USA Team, this movie is destined for gold! And, my apologies for the "Assist" thing, there's really no excuse. Same the the "Gold" thing. Still, watch the movie. 8 of 10.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Fantastic performance by Washington in film that doesn't quite support him

Author: Hound-2 from Providence, RI
22 October 1998

I had to remind myself several times Denzel Washington was an actor and that he was playing a character named Jake Shuttlesworth--his performance is that good. I'd give him the Academy Award for Best Actor. I'm serious--he's amazing. In terms of the film, it isn't quite good enough to support his performance. (We are expected to believe there's no one looking out for Jesus [everyone in the film has an ulterior motive], and Jesus himself is too much of a saint.) Definitely worth watching, though--any Spike Lee film usually is. But I'm annoyed at Lee: he's too good a director to insert the MTV-style shots in this film. Unlike so many who have tried to cover basketball before, however, Lee knows the game. This gives (the all-white) Hoosiers a run for its money as the best basketball film… of course, there isn't much competition.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A dark and unsettling film about basketball

7/10
Author: Agent10 from Tucson, AZ
20 May 2002

It finally happened, and the movie we all thought Spike Lee would make became reality. With Lee's own little foray into the basketball world, I always wondered when he would create a story which reflected his unique views of the game. While sometimes over sensationalized, he depicted a seedy world comprised of two-faced individuals all the way down to the seedy high school coach to the professional agent. I also felt it depicted some very frank images of the cultural aspects of athletics, the sex, the money and the little freebies. While the film didn't need the story between Denzel Washington and Milla Jovovich, it was strong in most aspects. It was a bit of a change of pace for Spike Lee, considering the graininess of the film stock and the rather mundane colors. Also, Ray Allen had one of the best pro athletes-turned-actor performances in a long time.

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11 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Flawed but always interesting

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
13 July 2003

Jesus Shuttlesworth is the number one hope for college basketball and has offers from colleges and sports agents ringing non-stop. His father is in jail for the manslaughter of his wife but is allowed out by the Governor for 4 days with a promise of further leniency if he can convince his son to go to Big State University. However Jesus has never forgiven him and this pressure, on top of everything else, is the last thing he needs.

I'm never too sure what I'm going to take away from this film each time I watch it, as it does tend to try and cover a lot of ground. Is the film about father/son relationship? Is it about the commercialisation of school sports? Or pressure on young athletes? It's hard to be sure and I'm not sure that Lee is totally sure either. As such it often leaves me searching for an adequate way to summarise what I just watched. Regardless I do feel that the film manages to cover a lot of bases well. The stuff about the sports system is well worked without ramming down your throat – the exaggeration (or is it?) of the characters and scenarios is good and makes for good satire of sorts.

The central relationship between Jake and Jesus is also worked well through several key scenes throughout the film. It leaves questions open during the film and at the end, but I guess there aren't always answers for everything and that's the way it is. The dynamic between the two is good though and it makes for an interesting plot – even though it does often feel like a subplot behind the basketball stuff. Other bits of the film don't fare as well. The two romantic strands are not as good as they should be – certainly Jake's scenes with Dakota are less than inspiring.

The cast are all pretty good. Allen does OK but occasionally looks out of his depth with the talented cast. The array of basketball players and associates all add colour whether as themselves or playing characters. Washington carries the majority of the film and shows his ability in a difficult role – he became the heart of the film for me even though I'm sure the intention was for that to be Jesus. Dawson plays well despite being eye candy for the majority, she does have better scenes near the end of the film. The support cast have a few Lee regulars including an amusing Turturro, a convincing Palagonia and a blink and you'll miss her Jennifer Esposito.

Overall this is not a perfect film as it overstretches itself a little and doesn't manage to deal with everything as well as it could have done. Ironically the overstretching is also a plus point as, every time I watch it, it gives me something else to concentrate on. Not Lee's finest work but a good film about his other passion with plenty of other stuff thrown in behind it.

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