Reviewed by: Bob Thompson
“He Got Game” is a sports drama detailing the sad story of one black family in New York City’s Coney Island, and their desperate attempt to make it out of the projects. This is a sordid film by Spike Lee about corruption and betrayal.
The GAME is basketball, and it is the ticket out of poverty, filth, and hopelessness for one Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen)--a very promising senior at Abraham Lincoln High School. Jesus' father (Denzel Washington) is a convicted felon who manages a temporary exit from jail, and a possible reduced jail term if he pleases jail Warden Wyatt (Ned Beatty). The story, what there is of it, revolves around the surprise visit of this jailed father to his angry, alienated son, and daughter.
Besides the father/son conflict, this is also the story of people’s greed. Almost every person Jesus Shuttleworth knows comes after him for something because they know he is about to make it big. This list includes his coach, Uncle Bubba (whom he had lived with), and his girlfriend.
To its credit, “He Got Game” actually goes out of its way to portray the Lord Jesus and the Bible in a positive way. In one early confrontational scene between the convict father and his skeptical son, Jesus S. asks his father if now, suddenly he has found God, to which he replies “What’s wrong with finding Jesus… people make mistakes… they veer off the path. God forgives… I hope you will too.” But it is difficult to tell in this film whether the gratuitous profanity and sex scenes, bordering on the pornographic, punctuate the story line, or if they are the story line, set off by bits of sometimes touching dialogue or tense interaction between two children and their father. In this film you can be sure that, if you have watched two or three scenes without graphic nudity and sex acts, then, a scene containing these is up next. This one misses the mark; don’t waste your time and money.