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Worth A Look: 5.66%
Just Average: 5.66%
Pretty Crappy: 3.77%
Sucks: 7.55%

3 reviews, 35 user ratings

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He Got Game
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by Chef ADogg

"Mista Spike's second masterpiece."
5 stars

"He Got Game" is a punchy, full bodied cinematic experience. Spike Lee couples delirious editing with a great story and comes out with his second best film yet (the first being "Clockers," but that's a different review altogether).

Denzel Washington finally makes good on his potential as Jake Shuttlesworth, a man released from prison on a special "work release program"--he has to persuade his estranged son Jesus (number one basketball draft pick in the country) to attend Big State, the govenor's alma mater.

If this sounds a bit contrived, you have yet to see the magic that Spike works. From the beginning you know this isn't going to be like any film you've ever seen--Aaron Copland swells in the background as we watch a graceful montage of people shooting hoops all over the country. It's the most original opening I've ever seen, and the dignity behind it embodies the rest of the film.

It's a typically messy joint--complicated relationships and subplots spilling out over each other. But that's what makes the picture work. The colorful strands of plot run into each other to form one of the most beautiful pictures of a father-son relationship that I have ever seen. And it all has the pungent smell of real life.

Never before has a Lee film been so jam packed with great characters and memorable scenes. Next to the stark elegance of "Clockers" or the joyful hum of "Do The Right Thing," "He Got Game" is a horse of a different color--Spike takes on the role of a modern day Dickens, serving up hard reality with plenty of flavorful storytelling spice.

There's not a bum performance to be found in the rather large cast. Denzel does his best work here as a poverty stricken sad sack--he creates a character with so many facets that you forget it's Washington pulling the strings. At once motivated by blinding love for his son and too apathetic to take full control of his life, you can't help but root for him as the movie nears the end.

He's met with a pitch perfect performance by NBA player Ray Allen. A do-gooder role model with unresolved issues about his imprisoned father, Allen hits all the right notes, and you couldn't ask for a more winning hero.

Also contributing strong work are Milla Jovavich, Thomas Jefferson Byrd (my second favorite Spike Lee actor), and Bill Nunn. The standout, though, is Roger Geneveur Smith, with his first really juicy role, as Big Time Willie. Freed from the wimpy morality of his character in "Get On The Bus," Smith bites into his role here and juices his five minute scene with sublimely egotistical vigor--in other words, you won't forget him anytime soon (I just wish he'd been given more to do in the new "Summer of Sam"--check for him as Anthony LaPagilia's afro'd partner).

The real star here is, as always, Spike's direction. "He Got Game" is delivered with a newfound snap, and it's a joy to watch (helped quite a bit by Malik Hassan Sayeed's remarkable cinematography). Also adding to the effect of the film is the juxtaposition of orchestral Aaron Copland and new songs by Public Enemy (their best work in years--they sound fresh again). When basketball comes into the picture, Copland takes over, and the scenes are delivered with grace and beauty; when the action moves to streets and Jake's quest for freedom, the film moves to the jumpy rhthym of Chuck D and the boys.

"He Got Game" is made for repeat viewing. Spike more than just paints a picture here, as he has in the past--he creates a world, and then asks you to come inside and stay awhile. This is the first film since Martin Scorsese's breakthrough picture "Mean Streets" in which I felt I really got to know the characters. And you know what? I'm glad I did.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=157&reviewer=123
originally posted: 07/24/99 14:14:50
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User Comments

8/24/09 Jeff Wilder Entertaining and emotionally affecting look at the humanity behind the sport. 4 stars
11/25/08 killer mindblowing 5 stars
9/02/08 Shaun Wallner Amazing Storyline. 5 stars
5/19/08 jointz People who gave this 1-star were clearly smoking crack like the ones in Big Time's speech 5 stars
6/20/07 fools♫gold Of course I consider myself a man. The dreamlike quality truly gone right. 100% 5 stars
3/31/06 Tanya Denzel was great, Spike always makes you think 5 stars
3/22/06 Seanboy A Lee Joint, thru and thru, Denzel is astonishing here 5 stars
10/07/05 jamie-lee I love the show 5 stars
10/07/05 Ryan Im sorry bout the previous comment cause ive always been such a girl. I nailed my mom 2 5 stars
2/05/05 axe Spike's got mad love for the game, no doubt of it's beauty. 4 stars
8/06/04 Anthony G Great movie 5 stars
1/16/04 Agent Sands (previously Mr. Hat) Like most Spike Lee films, it's really insightful & emotionally involving. 5 stars
7/17/03 Hey Wat NOw? Good Job Spike, My FAvourite Film, Denzel shoulda won a oscar for dat, da music woz tight 5 stars
12/29/02 Femme_Fataleaa Pretty damn fantastic! Go Denzel! He's got GAME. 5 stars
8/18/01 Edwin Menguin Great looking film, Ray Allen's acting the only slight drawback, Denzel=Spot On 5 stars
7/28/01 JesseL Why does a great talent like Denzel keep teaming with a hack like Spike Lee? 1 stars
4/12/01 jamie-lee bad 2 stars
8/03/00 Jake I want those black guys. 1 stars
4/23/00 Ryan too annoying... ulgy guys too 1 stars
6/15/99 Dylan Absolutely brilliant! Can Spike put a foot wrong??? 5 stars
6/15/99 Daddy Rich One of the best films I have ever seen. A great story and movie. This is what's real. 5 stars
4/14/99 Jon Jackson Monopoly, now there's game. 3 stars
2/23/99 Scott One of the best films I saw that year 5 stars
2/18/99 Piz great potential but gives in to predictability and Lee's reverse racism. 3 stars
2/02/99 Michelle Me Belle This has to be the second crappiest movie of all time! Pussy-assed characters. 1 stars
12/14/98 Binky A decent movie. Spike's coming back. 5 stars
12/08/98 Shadow Raider Awesome movie. I love that song. Great story and plot. Behold! 5 stars
10/18/98 Kwyjibo Is Spike getting back to making great movies? Seems to be. 5 stars
10/14/98 Bluntman Awesome biblical metophors give this movie raw power 5 stars
10/10/98 Maegs Made me realize the tremendous pressures being heaped on these boys. Awesome. 5 stars
9/23/98 Milhouse Faqw Another classic from Do The Right Thing Man. 5 stars
8/24/98 The Capital City Goofball Ray Allen is a horsey's patoot. But he get's laid more than me. Not bad. 4 stars
8/22/98 Mister Whoopee It was no Do The Right Thing. M-m-m-m-m-MOO-KIE! 2 stars
8/22/98 Superfly Could've been better is Ray Allen wasn't such a bad actor. 3 stars
8/18/98 sean I agree with Tom ... except the ending sucked. Most overlooked movie this year. 5 stars
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  01-May-1998 (R)
  DVD: 02-Sep-2003



Directed by
  Spike Lee

Written by
  Spike Lee

  Denzel Washington
  Ray Allen
  Milla Jovovich
  Rosario Dawson
  Hill Harper
  Zelda Harris

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