Saturday, May 19, 2012
WHITE MEN CAN'T JUMP (1992)
Cinematography By: Russell Boyd
Editor: Kimberly Ray & Paul Seydor
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Rosie Perez, Tyra Ferrell, Kadeem Hardison, Cylk Cozart, Duane Martin, John Marshall Jones
Billy and Sydney think they're the best basketball hustlers in town, so when they join forces, nothing can stop them, except each other. To add to their problems, Billy owes money and is being chased by a pair of gangster types.
I saw this film a few times in theaters with each of my parents who loved it even though I might have been too young to really watch it.
This film is what I consider a lost classic it doesn’t get enough credit as it deserves and I feel is a forgotten film. That was a hit at the time and whose title get’s brung up a lot but is not recognized after all these years with the respect it deserves. The film is subtle.
According to their basketball instructors, Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson reached the skill level to be able to start for an NCAA Division III team.
Charlie sheen was actually the first choice to play the role Harrelson has here.
Rosie Perez is perfect in this film. She is sexy and alluring. Yet her scenes with the way she speaks is played for comedy. Still though it is another misdirection as she is a smart character. Book smart and street smart. Which does have a payoff as she is the better person then her boyfriend played by Woody Harrelson. Her character feels real. For all her winning attributes she still has problems and is flawed. That is what I admire about her performance and what I admire about the film. All the characters feel that way even the smaller roled and supporting ones. We get to know them and see therie reactions to the colorful characters they run into. They feel lived in. it brings a vitality and realness where anything can happen. These are people you know or wished you did to a point. It is because we actually see there lives unfold off the court as much as we do on it. We realize while the on the court theatrics are fun and vital. They have other things and bigger problems to deal with. The sex scene has graphic but not like romantic soft porn. It is more passionate and realistic and with nuances that don’t make it smooth and perfect.
The film has a lot of racial humor which at times seems gratuitous but it actually gives an understanding of each of them.
The con games are obvious but still fun to watch and once you think you have figured them out. The Film still manages to surprise the audience.
Woody Harrelson truly has a star making role. He creates a screen image that of a cool conflicted character, humorous and a screw-up who thinks he has it all figured out. The character is one that easily can crossover to any viewer as his character freely goes into racial culture that is not his own. He doesn’t try a imitation or try to be down. He stays himself and jokes around. He says what he believes no matter who’s around and is accepted. The film plays racism for humor and it’s ridiculous nature that plays with the characters and the audience. Wesley snipes Id actually the heart of the film the one with the good head on his shoulders. Where as woody is the hot head. At times their characters change roles in the relationship.
There are many hilarious scenes in between there are is plenty of emotional moments that are revealing of character and material.
This film definitely represents 90’s culture, outfits and mindsets. The film doesn’t age well but still good a classic in my book.
The basketball scenes are beautifully choreographed and exciting.
The film has an open ending. So just when you think you have things figured out. It pulls the rug out even when you weren’t looking or expecting it. Though it was a worldwide hit. It is actually low key and the humor comes from a genuine place instead of it feeling surreal and ridiculous or characters behaving totally unbelievable and against their own nature.
Writer Director Ron Shelton is a former athlete himself so he knows the field in which he depicts. His films usually Revolve around sports in some capacity COBB, TIN CUP, BULL DURHAM, PLAY IT TO THE BONE. He never truly matched the success of this film at the box office or in quality. Surprisingly the closes he came was with his golf film TIN CUP.
Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson tried the same magic and chemistry they displayed in this film. Not with a sequel but a buddy film called MONEY TRAIN. While entertaining and fun it was not as well structured and original.