Starring Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes, Rosie Perez, Tyra Ferrell, Kadeem Hardison, Marques Johnson, Freeman Williams, Duane Martin
Fast. Fresh. Memorable.
Sidney Deane: [before winning a bet with him] Billy, listen to me. White men can’t jump.
White men can’t jump. Can clichés be iconic? The spirit of the film, the originality of its characters, and its cleverness went a long way to popularizing the myth that all white men aren’t athletic. It stars Woody Harrelson as a basketball hustler, Billy Hoyle, who doesn’t know how to walk away from a bet, much like Paul Newman’s Eddie Felson. Unlike Eddie, however, who always looked smooth and competent, Billy looks like a fool, and besides that, he’s white, so when he shows up to courts in southcentral L.A, the locals assume he can’t play. One of these locals, hardworking Sydney Deane (Snipes), sees the potential in Billy’s hustle and decides to team up with him. Rosie Perez plays Billy’s supportive but exhausted wife, Gloria, always studying for a chance on Jeopardy. White Men Can’t Jump isn’t a great movie in my estimation (despite being a favorite of Stanley Kubrick of all things). It’s not realistic enough for serious social commentary, it’s not a satire, and it’s not hilarious. I would also argue that basketball is one of the least compelling sports cinematically and one of the most difficult to portray accurately. What works are the characters who smart, fresh, and perfectly cast.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-