Spike Lee's take on the "Son of Sam" murders in New York City during the summer of 1977 centering on the residents of an Italian-American Northeast Bronx neighborhood who live in fear and distrust of one another.
Tells the story of Jesus Shuttlesworth, the most sought after high school basketball prospect in the nation. Jesus and his dream to make it to the big ranks in professional basketball are overshadowed by his father, Jake, who is spending his life in prison for killing Jesus' mother.Written by
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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