He Got Game (1998)

Spike Lee has always been known for looking at the slums of New York but now he looks at it in through basketball, also in New York.

A man (Denzel Washington) convicted of murdering his wife is offered a chance to have his sentence lessened if he can persuade his heavily-recruited basketball star son (Ray Allen) to sign with a local college.

Even a non-basketball fan can enjoy this surprisingly gentle film about the reconciliation of a father and son. When I say “surprisingly gentle,” I mean the tone of the film, not the content. This film grows out of its feelings about the numerous pressures that are put on high talented athletes in high school. This film can be seen as a very angry but passionate film. The real theme of the story really does come off about a father and a son who come to each other and learn to love and accept one another.

The one thing I was mostly surprised about was how there weren’t many scenes of ball-playing which you would suspect from a movie about basketball. This is more about the relationship between the father and son but also how basketball connects each other. This film captures a distant if no relationship between a father and son and how each try to cope with their tossed relationship.

The film is a great visual fest for Lee as all of his trademarks come out of this film. Many scenes feature great color work and excellent editing which we always see in each of his films. I was surprised that this wasn’t as political or based on race as many of his other works have been.

The acting from Denzel Washington is surely a wonderful and charismatic performance as he shows that he can have the power within without even having it come out. He is always calm with Ray Allen’s character and just waits for that anger to come out. Ray Allen I thought did alright but was very flat. He tries very hard but can barely keep it together on screen with Washington.

There were a lot of scenes and parts that were not needed. The gratuitous sex and some drug use were not needed and were just put in to be put in. I also didn’t enjoy the score that was involved in many of the scenes. The beginning montage I thought was good, but the score didn’t connect to the scenes, and I thought kind of distracted me from the real scene at hand. I did how this wasn’t a regular basketball film and doesn’t feature much rap music.

Consensus: He Got Game is flawed but in the end features a powerful message from Spike Lee about the important relationship between a father and son.


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