He Got Game (1998) Review

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Jake Shuttlesworth is serving a sentence in prison for accidentally killing his wife. His son Jesus is touted as the next big thing in basketball, if he can convince him to go to a certain college his sentence will be dramatically reduced. To try and do this he is let out on parole.

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Jesus Shuttlesworth is the most wanted high school basketball prospect when it comes to moving into college. His dream is haunted by the memories of his father Jake and the rough upbringing he had with the endless basketball drills. The death of his mother also playing on his mind. He has entered into a strange phase in his life as he does not know who he can trust as everyone seems to want a piece of him as he appears to be on the way to the big time.

He is offered ridiculous deals from the different colleges in an attempt to get him to sign for them. From a British perspective I always find that totally crazy as its so different in the US compared to the UK. Universities over here while they have sports teams are not on the same level as the US, where tens of thousands of people actually go to watch and support the college level of sport, as they do for high school sport as well. Something I wish we would actually take on board.

It creates a strange atmosphere in the film as at different times you feel sorry for Jesus and Jake, even though the latter is not painted in the best way to be brutally honest. We are shown his past behaviour though Jesus’ memories so I guess by this point they would be a little bit tainted in his hatred towards his father. This does ensure that we have some fantastic scenes and build up to the father/son moments and left wondering if Jake has changed his ways. He could not trust his girlfriend Lala who claimed that she loved him and would do anything for him, having no idea which friends he could trust or even his Uncle who he had been living with, turning on him when he thinks money could be involved in his deals.

Jesus hates his name and everything that comes with it, something Jake had no idea at all about. The teasing from it, but now with his up and coming basketball fame it is something that has a better spin on it as people are excited about his potential and the career he could have after playing college ball. The tension is built up nicely and I found it to be a very engaging story from start to finish, not your usual in terms of sport drama which makes it more unique.

Denzel Washington as always delivers a top quality performance which is nothing short of what we expect from the legend of an actor. I was impressed with Ray Allen who had to put in an emotional performance at times and felt he did a great job in the leading role working well with Washington when they shared the same scene.

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