dirty laundry
religion, sisyphus and me

by request: he got game (spike lee, 1998)

In most respects, He Got Game has the strengths Spike Lee brings to all of his films. He gets the expected great performance from Denzel Washington. He draws another fine performance from Ray Allen, a basketball player early into his Hall of Fame career who had never acted before. His canny casting brought Milla Jovovich, a teenage Rosario Dawson in only her second feature, and some of Spike's usual suspects (Bill Nunn, Roger Guenveur Smith, John Turturro, Lonette McKee), along with many famous basketball names playing themselves.

But He Got Game is too long. The Milla Jovovich subplot is unnecessary (she's a prostitute that Denzel wants to help). The plot itself is ludicrous ... Denzel is a convict who is offered a deal by the warden. The governor of the state wants Denzel's son, the best high school basketball prospect in the country, to attend the governor's alma mater, so Denzel is released for a week to get his son to sign a letter of intent. If he succeeds, the governor will reduce Denzel's sentence.

Denzel works the hell out of the plot, but he can't save it. Still, the interactions between him and Ray Allen as his son are often powerful, and again, Allen shines in his first acting job. It's not enough to save the film, but it does make it worth seeing once.

Something should be said about the music, because Lee always delivers, and He Got Game is no exception. The movie features a canny use of Aaron Copland that is on target throughout. And Public Enemy does the title track, which is terrific. They later released an album of their own material with "He Got Game" at its center, and it's arguably the best album of their post-peak life. I love that track in particular. I like the video as well, but it's hard to find an unedited version, so here's a lyric video with the correct lyrics in place:

(Here is a letterboxd list of movies with African-American directors.)


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)