He Got Game (1998) Poster

(1998)

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10/10
A Great Movie for Anyone Who Plays Ball at Any Level
thekino17 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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A flawed film that still flies.
ericb3364 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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8/10
A fascinating performance by Denzel Washington in a solid film.
Rigor4 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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Well Played
jhendrickson0810 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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9/10
Who's wiser, the player or the father?
nforgione0813 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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8/10
The most beautiful sports movie of all time
Dockelektro26 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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7/10
A dark and unsettling film about basketball
Agent1020 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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8/10
A real victory for film making, but not without it's drawbacks.
fingerscut11 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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Flawed but always interesting
bob the moo13 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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Fantastic performance by Washington in film that doesn't quite support him
Hound-222 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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Fouled Out Pretty Quickly.
tfrizzell16 October 2003
Director Spike Lee's ode to basketball is one of those frustrating experiences that appears to be a possible slam dunk, but ultimately ends up fouling out mainly because of an uneven story and a nearly invisible tone. Denzel Washington is serving a prison sentence for killing his wife in a domestic dispute. While away, his son has grown to become high school basketball stand-out Ray Allen (a real-life NBA player). Governor Ned Beatty promises to shorten Washington's sentence if he can convince Allen to attend Beatty's alma mater. He has one week to accomplish his goal. Naturally Allen is outraged by seeing his father again and creates a shell to keep Washington out of his life. At first this seems like a good thing, but what if all of Allen's so-called friends (coaches, relatives, girls, agents and fans) are the true antagonists here and Washington is the flawed hero? Lee is never sure what he wants to do here. The movie plays out like a chaotic basketball game with lots of action and memorable action, but in the end you do not want either team to win. Washington and Allen's relationship takes up some airtime, but so do others that leave almost as fast as they appear. The corruption in collegiate athletics and within sports agencies is also given an interesting glimpse, but alas those topics are not explored completely. "He Got Game" looked like it would match the brilliance of William Friedkin's "Blue Chips" (a flawed, but important movie), but just does not seem to have the coaching necessary. Washington is impressive and handles the material as well as he can. Allen is a complete revelation. Anfernee Hardaway had stolen the show from Nick Nolte in "Blue Chips" and Allen pretty much does the same thing in this one. Ray Allen seems to have unlimited potential in front of the camera and his gift could be developed more fully after his playing career ends. I have said for years that Ray Allen should be the best player in the NBA, but he has ultimately disappointed me throughout his professional career. Allen is not the problem here though. Lee's sporadic direction and a meandering script end up sending "He Got Game" to the locker room way too soon. 2.5 out of 5 stars.
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Pretty lousy
Cory A Morrant1 April 2000
Overall this movie pretty much sucked, its kind of boring and contrary to what some people say, All-Star Ray Allen is a terrible actor and detracted a lot from the power of the movie, especially when he is paired with the awesome force of Denzel Washington. On the plus side the boy who played young Jesus Shuttlesworth was very similar to Allen... also a terrible actor. Denzel Washington is once again amazingly convincing in his role, this time as a mostly ignorant father with some intriguing wisdom who was sent to prison for accidentally killing his own wife (that scene is ridiculous, unless his wife had a completely separate unnoticed brain tumor that coincidentally hemorrhaged just as Denzel pushed her a whole two feet into the stove.) Other pluses in the movie are an amazing scene involving an agent who talks a great game and Laker Rick Fox, a much more natural actor than Allen, who makes a cameo in an amusing scene as a black college baller who likes his chocolate white. The scenes between Denzel Washington and Milla Jovovich are very nicely done (especially the work by Denzel) although it seems odd that a bum who killed his wife and a cheap tramp shacked up in a sleazy hotel would be two of the most attractive people on the planet. Unfortunately the movie's handful of great scenes are buried by areas of ill-conceived situations and dialogue, blaring music that is poorly chosen and a vintage Spike-Lee-totally-wacked ending.
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10/10
Denzel Washington Gave A Great Performance!
whpratt17 February 2004
Enjoyed the great acting of Denzel Washington(Jake Shuttlesworth),"The Bone Collector",'99, who played a very complicated character role as a murderer who killed his wife who he really LOVED! A father to his daughter and a son he adored and trained hard to become a great Basketball Super Star like Michael Jordan. Denzel made it look easy, but try to act out the great role he portrayed. The film locations were great in Coney Island,(Brooklyn), NY and the Cabrini-Green in Chicago, Illinois. Ray Allen(Jesus),"Harvard Man",01 was a great supporting actor and his talent should be seen more often. Jake tried to help Milla Jovovich(Dakota Burns),"Dummy",02 who was a prostitute and warmed to the friendship that Jake offered to her with no strings attached! This is a very deep and meaningful film which has great moralistic lessons to offer the audience.
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8/10
contrived but powerful and mostly well crafted religious (yes, religious) fable
MisterWhiplash30 August 2008
It's not only that He Got Game's young main character is named Jesus- though that is a very obvious point writer/director Spike Lee puts out there just to nail it (no pun intended) across- but just the entire scope of the picture, individual scenes, that paint this as a kind of modern religious fable. God isn't exactly present throughout the picture (surely the sex scenes and 'bad' language don't make it very holy for many audiences), but Lee's tale, however contrived to fit around the premise of a convict (Denzel Washington) being released for a week to try and lock-down his estranged son into a college the governor wants, strikes a chord almost in spite of its limitations. It's about forgiveness on a base level, about resisting temptations on all fronts, about reconciliation, and about not becoming holier than thou. In a strange way having the character named Jesus deflects the whole point: Jake, Jesus's father, named him for a *former* NBA player nicknamed Jesus, a sweet irony unto itself.

What's most surprising for me is that within the set boundaries of the contrivances, both in the grand piece of the premise and in little occurrences like Jake being situated right next door to a beat up prostitute, Spike Lee has created a work of fiery passion and care and detail. It's a good script first and foremost as just a morality tale played out as realistically as imaginable (or as realistically in a Joint of his) and then elevated through his steadfast direction and the performances. No accident then that basketball is both the main focus of the trials and tribulations of the characters of Jake and Jesus in the story AND Spike Lee's main joy aside from film-making. It goes without saying there are still pieces of social commentary throughout, not least of which from a character named 'Big Time' who rolls around Coney Island pontificating about "life on the streets" or more obviously by the traps of fame and fortune in pro-basketball in colleges. It's how Lee works in the real personal issues, of the more intimate scenes (and not the ones you think are intimate, not sex scenes save for a brief one between Jovovich and Washington), that makes it work.

So, amid the high-flying camera shots and subliminal editing and specific usage of colors and filters as metaphors and the slow-motion shots of the basketball flying through the air as if out in space and lost in time, with taking aside Lee's firm strengths here as a filmmaker, the acting shines out better than expected. In his one real performance (he's appeared in one other film that may or may not have been smaller), Ray Allen plays Jesus without pretension and without ever sounding much of a false note. It could come off as weak to some as he occasionally tries to rise up to the challenge of getting to that level of his fellow actors emotionally. Some may say that, which is fine. But with the scenes he had with the likes of Denzel Washington he held his own wonderfully, with his older quasi-counterpart delivering another great turn in a Lee picture. While it also goes without saying the two of them are stuck in a manipulative "uplifting" ending with the ball flying over one wall into the court, they're actors made for this kind of story and characters- they also play a mean game of ball to boot in a (pleasantly) uncharacteristic one-on-one climax game.

He Got Game has its clichés, its sentimental bits, and its characters brought over from other sports-related dramas. It's also wiser than other crude Hollywood product, it's got sharper and nearly quintessential Spike Lee dialog, and it even features a perfect semblance of rousing score from Aaron Copeland and very cool songs from Public Enemy. And if it delivers a message that isn't too hackneyed under the circumstances, that's fine too, and with everything against it via its premise Lee's made one of his better pictures- good even if you're not big into the sport. 8.5/10
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Disappointing
MichaelOates17 May 2004
Denzel Washington and Ray Allen were excellent but other than that I didn't really think this film worked.

The plot was simple enough: convince your son to go to a certain college and you will get reduced time off your sentence. I expected Spike Lee to do a b job with bringing father and son closer together. I fear Spike Lee "He Got Game" for several reasons and none of them include giving the audience a good product

Another problem that this film has is the fact that it has more than enough graphic sexual content and language. It could have been a lot better if the sexual content and some of the language were edited out of the script.

With the exception of the two leads, basketball stars such as Rick Fox and Walter McCarty overshadowed the rest of the cast. For this reason alone, I would recommend "He Got Game."
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Powerful, but uneven
patty81026 December 1998
Denzel Washington's performance is amazing, and a delight to watch. He is so good that I was able to forget for long minutes that it was a movie while under his spell. The story is plausible enough, and beautifully filmed, although I can't help but wonder if the temptations that face a rising basketball star are quite as vicious as pictured here. Three things subtracted from what would otherwise be a real work of art: (1) The large amount of graphic sexual content really wasn't necessary. (2) The point of character Jesus Shuttlesworth's first name was really not clear, yet it was ceaselessly trumpeted and highlighted; it was a distracting, muddy concept. (3) The ending was extremely disappointing and bizarre.

Up until the very last few minutes, I was entirely taken in by this film. The ending, however, left me feeling somewhat ripped off. Still, I found myself thinking about the movie for hours afterwards, and even lying awake at night trying to come up with the ending that I would like to have seen.

I wasn't sure what Aaron Copeland's music had to do with the urban black setting of the story, and I wished that there was a lot more of Public Enemy.
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1/10
Just A Bit Better Than "School Daze"
kallah26 June 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Possible Spoilers Here

Let's get one thing straight. I like Spike Lee, but I must say this to him and all film directors and producers. If I wanna see gratuitous sex in a film, I'll rent a porno... and won't be afraid to admit it. I'll really do it. It ain't that I mind sex and violence in major feature films. It's just insulting to me when Hollywood gives us sex and violence in flicks and they have NOTHING TO DO WITH THE STORY.

This film could have been a LOT better without the insulting sexual situations. Like I said, watching other people doin' it ain't the worst thing in the world. The problem with this film is that there was a sexual situation that actually occurred in the story and was essential to the plot... BUT WASN'T EVEN SHOWN!!! In fact, most of the sex that WAS shown featured people who weren't even characters in the story! They were figures in a senseless montage of sex and violence narrated by an obscure acquaintance of the main character.

With that aside, the story was actually interesting (as it usually is up to the middle of Spike Lee's flicks). As usual, however, Spike had to throw his little personal favorite artsy filming techniques in it and suture his patented ridiculous ending to the film. To be fair, if you like sports flicks, this one is a necessary evil because of what occurs in the story. If you like sex in movies for no reason, you'll like this one too. After all, the stupid sex scenes were as steamy as the MPAA will allow in an R-rated flick. If you're a drama-lover or a serious film watcher, this ain't a necessary flick.
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3/10
Spike Lee Misses Mark With Unnecessary Film
jwb0219 July 1999
"He Got Game" was a horrible film. First of all, Ray Allen? You can play basketball, but you can't act. Sorry. The amount of graphic sexual content was unnecessary and revolting. They made getting into college look like an orgy. If you haven't already seen this movie, then be glad. The ending was very confusing, and the whole movie was too. I give it a 3 out of 10, and only because Denzel Washington is so great.
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1/10
Disappointing flop
elderfarr20 May 2009
This movie is stupid. It is long and drawn out. Ray Allen should be ashamed of himself for the scenes he was in. Millions of kids look up to him and he is in a scene like that. I wonder what his daughter will think when she gets older and sees that scene. Unbelievable! The plot was just another stupid sports movies. The only good sports movies are true stories. That way it is not the typical same old repeated stuff that seem to surface in every basketball movie. Spike Lee is a joke and so is this movie. I was really excited to see this movie but if I wanted a porno I would have walked down to Blockbuster and got one. I lost every bit of respect for Ray Allen that I had.
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4/10
disjointed
mrfrane1 December 1998
The film has its moments, but for the most part it rattles around from place to place, relies on some fairly stupid cliches, and (as usual with Spike Lee) treats women like dirt. In fact, the only real function of women in this film is to (a) take off their shirts, (b) die, (c) take off their shirts, (d) take off their shirts. Oh, yeah, there's a hooker with a heart of gold (who takes off her shirt), and a great-looking teenage gold-digger (who takes off her shirt). And some entirely gratuitous white girls with huge breasts (who take off their shirts, duh).

And then ends with a completely out-of-character, inexplicable cliche so, I guess, we can feel a little better about some of the characters (because most of them are jerks).

This is the same guy who made the documentary about the little girls killed in Birmingham? You have to be kidding!
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9/10
Must-See Basketball
KellenKing16 May 2018
My favorite basketball film! Denzel is amazing in "He Got Game". This film is gritty and raw. It feels quite real, partly because of the acting of Ray Allen and the fact that he is an actual athlete. Nothing is held back, and that's what makes the movie so beautiful.
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3/10
Brief and concise review
fullheadofsteam15 March 2018
Go ahead if you want to and read the over-long, overly loquacious thousand-word reviews if you have the patience and the time to waste -- bottom line in reviewing this movie can be concise as this: Good actors, emotionally well-intended, but all for naught due to the initial very contrived premise that puts the plot in motion, which of course as so contrived undermines the overall credibility of the story.
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8/10
A simple story of a father, a son, atonement, and of course, Basketball....
Mahmoud Ahmad18 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
After directing Malcolm X, Spike Lee, along with John Singleton ('Boyz N the Hood'), became arguably the most popular and respected African American filmmaker of his time. Lee's wife, however, didn't like the fact that her husband's last original screenplay was nearly a decade ago and was vocal about it. Lee, then, decided to go back to do what originally launched him into the filmmaking world: writing and directing his own material. And although 'Malcolm X', an adaptation, was the biggest success of Lee's career, his rekindled desire to bring his own, fully original, story to the screen was the spark that led to 'He Got Game'.

The film opens with an almost five-minute montage of people playing basketball, shooting, dunking, pivoting, blocking and what have you. Spike Lee, a huge Knicks fan, believes it's worth to spend five minutes of screen time with nothing but the basketball and the music, composed of several orchestral pieces by Aaron Coplan ('Raging Bull'). The montage ends with Jesus Shuttlesworth ('Ray Allen'), in the basketball court, shooting the ball, followed by Jake Shuttleworth ('Denzel Washington'), his father, in Attica's Correctional Facility, shooting the ball as well, and one can already feel that the only connection, if any, between that father and his son is basketball. Following that intro, Spike Lee begins to utilize the old fashioned three-act structure to begin his story.

The warden calls Jake to his office, and we get to know about Jake's past and who he is through the warden's interview with him. The warden finally lays it out on the table and tells Jake what's what. The governor wants Jake to convince his son, Jesus, who is the number 1 basketball prospect in the country, to play for Big State University in exchange for a reduced sentence. Jake agrees and becomes wired by the two parole officers who will keep in touch with him. He got three days before he's sent back to Attica.

Jake starts by meeting Mary, his little daughter, first, as that, in his mind, would make it easier for him to contact his son. When his son enters the house, he doesn't look his father in the eyes and scolds his sister for allowing a "stranger" in. Throughout the film, the father, during his numerous and brief encounters with his son, tries to convince Jesus to go to Big State, but with no success. Their past is so dark that no light could break through.

In the best sequence of the film, during the last night of Jake's parole, he plays a defining basketball game in his final hours as a free man. If he wins, Jesus goes to Big State. If Jesus wins, Jake goes back to Attica. The stakes are high and as Jake plays and scores some points he begins to let go and shifts from wanting a reduced sentence to wanting forgiveness from Jesus (pun intended) and his murdered wife. He accepts his fate. He chooses the worse in hope of gaining the better later on. Only when they were separated again did he and his son connect more than they ever did.

To call 'He Got Game' bad would be an understatement and to call it good would be euphemistic. The film pushes some buttons in the human nature and emotions but you never feel a solid film. Overlong at parts and extremely short at others, the film tries to find its rhythm during its two-hour running time and doesn't quite get it right, but with all its flaws, it came out watchable, if intriguing, at parts.
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Hoop Dreaming
sol-24 September 2017
Released for a week from prison in a shady deal in which he has to convince his son to sign with a particular university, the father of a basketball prodigy struggles to reconnect with his teenage children in this Spike Lee drama. While basketball is a prominent theme and the film opens with majestic shots of various kids poetically playing the game, this is less a sports movie and more a study of estranged relationships with Denzel Washington and Ray Allen having close to equal screen time as father and son respectfully. Allen is nowhere near as polished an actor as Washington, but he has a nicely complex character, torn between offers from various universities, the wishes of his girlfriend, a desire to take responsibility for his sister and lots of resentment towards his father. Lee also admirably avoids spelling out Washington's criminal conviction until partway in, which gives us a chance to gradually warm to his character before discovering his heinous past actions. The film runs a little long with a subplot involving a hooker next door that could have been omitted completely; the ending is also a tad too maudlin for its own good. The vast majority of the film tugs on the right emotional strings though and together with some awesome music and excellent camera-work as per Lee par, this is a compelling watch regardless of one's interest in the sport of basketball.
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