Jake Shuttlesworth(Washington) is in Attica State Prison for the accidental murder of his wife. The Governor is an alumni and a huge supporter of a school called Big State. Jake is given a temporary release of a week to get his son Jesus to sign a letter of intent for Big State. If he can do this the Governor can give him an early release. Jesus is a highly touted high school player who has every school not to mention the pros and agents chomping at the bit to get a piece of him. Jake and Jesus have had a complicated relationship, so Jake must first get his trust back. He also has to be a father and recognize what's best for his son.
I loved this movie, Ray Allen was terrific for his first time. He shed the stigma that athletes who think they can act in fact can't. You really felt for Jesus because you could really the pressure he was under. Watching the film I almost felt cornered because I felt like I was right there with him and everywhere he turned there was someone in his ear and in his face asking him about his school choice. He was angry, flustered, confused, tired and bitter, and Allen really played it well. I'm sure he drew from his own background when he was being scouted. Denzel was his usual fantastic self. He was intense, and pushy when it
came to Jesus. He wanted him to be the best and possibly live vicariously through him. But you could tell that he loved playing ball with his son and that he was no murderer. As an inmate you could see the sincerity, desperation and remorse in his eyes and through his tone. I felt that Denzel played it perfectly, he wasn't pushy or subtle but you could really tell that he cared and wanted a relationship with his son. I also really loved the brilliant but brief scene Allen has with Roger Guenveur Smith who you may remember from Do the Right Thing, as Smiley. In a brief car ride he explains all Jesus will face, such as drugs, alcohol, women. Also friends and family that he rarely sees who come out of the woodwork to get money off him when he makes it big. It is the first time Jesus is forced to think about something besides basketball. Jesus feels more distracted and overwhelmed. It is a well acted scene and really pushes the story further.
I really enjoyed this film, it was a simple story and for Spike it was a little different. There is no social or racial agenda, just a story of a father and son trying to mend a broken relationship. I also really liked the commentary that Spike makes about high school and collegiate sports in the United States. This type of thing goes on where people spend all their time focusing on what one exceptional player does. There is a part where John Tuturro ,who plays a coach trying to recruit Jesus to their College says that they scouted him since Junior high. It is a true but sad fact on how much attention people pay to junior and high school sports, and I feel that Spike hit the nail on the head. The media and fans put these kids under a microscope and it adds much more pressure and stress than is needed. It is a film that really takes you inside the mind of a popular athlete and what he goes through when facing all this attention and distractions. I also liked all the cameos from NBA pros, coaches and scouts. It really gives the film more authenticity.
This is another solid Spike film that unfortunately flew under the radar. I would rank it high on the list of sports films because it focuses on more than sports. It focuses on life and it really gives the film a more human element. Well acted, well written and some great basketball scenes. Just an all around good film.