As a filmmaker and passionate fan of basketball, Spike Lee was the perfect director for this ambitious and heartfelt sports drama, which brought out the best in both Lee and his well-chosen cast. In his third film for Lee, Denzel Washington plays Jake Shuttlesworth, who is in prison for the manslaughter of his wife. His estranged son Jesus (well played by Milwaukee Bucks basketball player Ray Allen) is the nation's best high school basketball star, and Jake receives a compelling offer from the state's governor: If Jake can convince Jesus to sign a letter of intent to attend Big State University, the governor will reduce his sentence. Lee turns this back-room bargain into a fascinating examination of capitalism in college and professional sports, but the film also works as the moving story of a father's desperate attempt to regain his son's respect. Lee handles the basketball angle with an insider's awareness, and takes a few stylistic risks (including a memorable final image) that pay off with considerable emotional effect. He Got Game fully explores the visual poetry of basketball and the greed that fuels this particular vision of the American dream, but Lee never loses sight of the sport's inherent beauty, or the higher priorities of redemption and family that form the solid foundation of this exceptional film. --Jeff Shannon
Production: Buena Vista
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