Saturday, 25 April 2009

No. 109 : White Men Can’t Jump





This is another well known ‘W’ film that I was slow to get around to as the subject matter didn’t appeal. Basketball, buddy comedies and da hood are never popular with me but I enjoyed this more than expected.

Woody Harrelson plays Billy Hoyle a disgraced ex-basketball pro who now tries to hustle a few bucks playing the hoops. He’s basically a prototype Roy Munson who would follow in ‘Kingpin’ in just five years time. Woody’s first score involves taking $60 off Wesley Snipes’ character who thought he was the one doing the hustling.

Being impressed at the new talent Wesley suggests the pair team up using the black mens’ misconception that ‘white men can’t jump’ to relieve them of their cash. Things go well with a few small scores but when a big one goes wrong Billy finds out that Snipes wasn’t on his team after all. With a fall out averted by the intervention of their ladies the guys agree to team up for the city two man basketball tournament which they win. With things looking good the pair’s rivalry surfaces again with Wesley taking all the prize cash after a rash bet.

On the home front things are looking shaky with Woody’s wife Rosie Perez having a secret drinking problem as well as an ambition to get on the TV show ‘Jeopardy’. Elsewhere gangsters are after Woody for the loses incurred when he failed to throw a big match and Wesley’s wife needs to move out of the crime ridden neighbourhood.

With these tangled threads coming together the guys agree to team up once more to take on their biggest rivals in a big cash game

I enjoyed the first hour of this film quite a lot but my interest tapered off rapidly and by the end I was glad to see it end. The two leads do a good job as the squabbling no hopers but after a while their constant bickering becomes grating. Woody is especially annoying for an extended scene where he goads rival players into playing badly. The hoops action is well done and seems authentic but it’s hard to hang a 100 minute movie on a few three pointers.

Rosie Perez does ok as the drunk wannabe game show star but it’s hard too see what Woody sees in her constant carping and shouting. The ‘buddy’ aspect is well done and it’s easy to see why the pair were teamed up again as different characters in the less successful ‘Money Train’.

I’m sure this film has a cult following in the basketball and jive talkin’ communities but alas it doesn’t offer enough for me to sign up to either cause. Worth a look but it’s more off the back board than a slam dunk.

Best Bit : Rosie gets in Jeopardy
‘W’ Rating 12/13

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