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Macak (The Cat) is the best basketball player around the blocks of New Belgrade. Meanwhile, his friend is bullied by a local gangster Coma, whom he owns money. To pay off his debt, Macak will play 1 on 1 with the rival player, eventually winning it. However, Coma doesn't stand on his promise, so Macak decides to solve this problem the other way. Written by
1 NA 1 is a gritty, urban basketball western. It is the story of the young hardboiled streetballer Macak (The Cat in English) whose talents are being picked and exploited by the local criminals. He tries to get away but they go brutal on him which causes his flamboyant vengeance. His wrath upon them is pure spaghetti western, something we rarely see in sontemporary cinema. The spine of the film is Macak, played by Zoran Cica, young Yugoslav basketball player. He plays streetball and Second Division basketball in Yugoslavia but he`s a first-rate actor. Too bad he appears to stick to balling. His character and acting and how his character is designed and visualized are the strongholds of this film. All around him can be subjected to criticism. There is too much dialogue, a bit too much street-lingo, but these are all typical shortcomings of Yugoslav cinema and the requirements of Yugoslav audience. Director apparently decided to contaminate the film with such compromises but he kept the Macak character clean, and strong. Mladen Maticevic, the director of 1 NA 1, is famous for his orthodox taste. Such people are usually destined to be losers in times when directors do POVs of birds. His approach of wide shots and rarely used close-ups is the concept that is hard to find in today`s cinematic climate. But in this movie, the concept works and doesn`t feel anachronistic at all. Basketball duels are done with some quick-cutting, and energetic effects. They feel more powerful than HE GOT GAME but still not as stylish like AMERICAN HISTORY X. Of course, Yugoslav film NEBESKA UDICA can`t even be mentioned since it was written by sports illiterates and directed by pedestrians. Other actors are fine. Young rappers play Macak`s sidekicks and they are regarded as weaknesses of 1 NA 1. Yugoslav superstar rappers Sunshine do a great job as composers and actors, while Sonja Kolacaric delivers fine support as Macak`s romantic interest. Battle-scarred veteran Branislav Ciga Jerinic and charming Zoran Cvijanovic are 1 NA 1`s counterattacks delivered with a dunk. Some may regard 1 NA 1 as a masterfully directed hommage to the African-American ghetto cinema of the early nineties. But John Singleton and The Hughes Brothers are influences only when it comes to writing of Srdja Andjelic of DO KOSKE and MUNJE fame. Mladen Maticevic`s direction (while some parts were shot by Radivoje Andric) is in the Budd Boetticher-Raoul Walsh vein. He captures the cleanliness and machoism of their westerns and especially Boetticher`s star Randolph Scott. Zoran Cica is his own Randolph Scott, his own icon to be shot with monumental framing. His club scenes can be compared to club sets in Don Siegel`s COOGAN`s BLUFF. 1 NA 1 must be compared with APSOLUTNIH STO. It`s basically the same film. These films are twins in a way. 1 NA 1 is the smarter twin, the better-directed one, the low-budget one, the one that has ethical superiority. The good twin. APSOLUTNIH STO is a fancy twin, the one liked by girls and mainstream audience who use DIE HARD one-sheets instead of toilet paper. The evil twin. Sadly, 1 NA 1 was made on digital tape and it had poor transfer so it looks shabbier than his evil twin. I hope enough people will see this one. A definite pick.
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