Blue Chips (1994)
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Basketball movies are often the `weak team overcomes' type and are not exactly great. Some are good (Hoosiers) but most are mildly distracting at best (The air up there), few reach the heights of Hoop Dreams. However Blue Chips is good because it manages to cast a critical eye over the real world of college ball there are no small town winners, there are no `kids with hearts of gold' etc instead it is as much a business as the NBA and the stakes are high to get the best players.
Bell shows us how he must juggle doing what's right but also doing what the players want in order to get a winning team. This is refreshing rather than yet another sports movie with the same old cliches. The down side is that it doesn't go far enough in my mind and it doesn't offer solutions.
Nolte is good and is really convincing as a coach even if he's a bit OTT at times on the sidelines. His support is great in the form of McDonnell, Walsh, Woodard and the real players of Shaq and Penny do OK. The cast is also filled out with plenty of coaches, commentators and such from real life so there's plenty to see.
Overall this is one of my favourite basketball movies simply because it tells it like it is even if it does have it's weaknesses.
The supporting cast other than the three basketball players and Nolte's ex-wife fit perfectly or should I say match the poor and cliché writing of this movie. For example J.T. Walsh was cast as Happy. Happy was in charge or at least had connections that helped Nolte get his top notch recruits with illegal strategies such as buying houses, giving money and buying other luxurious items for the recruits' families. J.T. Walsh seemed very easy to spot as a corrupt and horrible man even though his character is supposed to have a low profile and be behind the scenes. This presents a huge problem for a key character who does seem to be quite believable. He is supposed to be the man doing things under the table instead he is totally visible to the public.
As I said before the writing in this movie does not engage the audience because it doesn't take on its own identity. It is hard to call this a comedy with too few jokes and attempts to amuse the audience and it is hard to call this a drama with the movie trying to be portrayed as a comedy.
This movie could have been easily fixed if there was more work done on the writing and the casting. Blue Chips attempts to show the corruption in college sports but it fails to show the many aspects of it. Such as the corporate sponsors and the pressure an athletic director is under of loosing their job. It does not show the competing colleges vying for the top recruits and most of all it does not show you how such pure and genuine feeling such as playing a sport can be so easily corrupted by the pressure and the need for winning from coaches and colleges to fans and corporate sponsors. This sounds like a lot but could have been very easily included in the movie without having to overextend this into a 2 1/2 hour movie.
Blue Chips examines greed, cheating, and "winning at all costs" in the world of college basketball. Pete Bell is the stressed-out coach on the verge of his first losing season, who hits the road in search of new players not already signed by a bigger school. He finds three prospects: a precision Chicago shooter Butch McRae,a giant farm boy Ricky Roe and a talented troublemaker Neon.
All three top prospects, wise to the ways of college basketball recruitment, make excessive financial and lifestyle demands before they can be persuaded to come to the school.Coach Bell, already haunted by accusations of underhanded dealings, doesn't want to dig himself a deeper hole but has no choice.
The movie was started really well.Director William Friedkin and Writer Ron Shelton made an accurate depiction of the reality of college recruitment and the morality play that schools figure in on the college sports.There was also a story about how college players get involved with game fixing themselves.The acting was great on Nick Nolte as usual.While the performance of Shaq was good for his first screen appearance.But in the end,it "chickened out" and opted for an implausible conclusion and resolved for a Hollywood ending.
But given its poor ending,Blue Chips is still an entertaining movie to watch especially for basketball fans.
What a surprise Blue Chips was, expecting a below par sports movie (based on reviews) but found a thought provoking and entertaining 110 minutes. To begin with it hits the normal sports movie beats but just when you think the drama is going one way, suddenly it doesn't and that only adds realism to the action.
William Friedkin does an excellent job in creating a tense and real life atmosphere, almost documentary style at least during the game-play scenes that makes you feel fully immersed. It's clear Friedkin and co have thoroughly researched this area and you get a sense of that while watching. The use of real life Basketball players and coaches adds to the authenticity.
During the drama the film deals with the shady dealings that no doubt goes on in American sports at college level (It's a massive deal, where careers and futures are made). A story of greed, cheating and pressure to win. Nolte is great in the role and gets to show off his soft side while also providing his well known manic style. Blue Chips really is an under-rated film although not perfect it deserves to be more well known.
'Blue Chips' Synopsis: A college basketball coach is forced to break the rules in order to get the players he needs to stay competitive.
'Blue Chips' is an interesting watch. Ron Shelton's Screenplay is grasping & often-confounding. It depicts a human-story, full of human-emotions & gives Nolte ample score to the anchor the film. William Friedkin's Direction is good.
Performance-Wise: Nolte is the life of the show. He's in complete command & holds the film from start to end. Its amongst his greatest performances, that proves us once again, what a fine actor Nolte is!
On the whole, 'Blue Chips' works & Nolte doesn't miss a single beat.
Nick Nolte holds this together as much as possible. There are many cameos. It's overloaded and some of it is unnecessary. There's no point in having Larry Bird. The movie has so much already. It could trim some of the extras. It has to tighten the first act because it is still waiting to introduce the new players. It's not until midpoint when Shaq finally shows up. Shaq doesn't deserve his Razzie. He's got natural charisma. It's also hard to make this team an underdog with Shaq around. The college ball corruption discussion can be overwrought but I'm fine with that.
Suffering a terrible season, legendary basketball coach Pete Bell feels the pressure to get the team back on track. Remembering how successful he has been in finding new comers,Bell looks towards the amateur league. As Bell signs on new talent,he learns that some of his best players have been cashing in backhanders.
View on the film:
Fuming by the sideline, Nick Nolte gives a powerhouse performance as Bell,who bites the arm of anyone who gets on his wrong side. Joined by the very good,more mellow J.T. Walsh, Mary McDonnell and Al Bundy, (playing a character with the very original name "Ed"!)Nolte gives Bell's marching orders to the team a warm howl,as Bell's sets his sights on the team leaping to victory.
Shooting hoops as a writer,the screenplay by Ron Shelton scoops out most of the feel-good Sports movie clichés for a more earthy approach,with the issues the team face in backhanders and burnouts lingering as doubt in Bell for the whole season. Appearing to set up a cheerful final shot, Shelton instead slams the ball down for a poetic ending which gets to Bell's love of the game. Ducking and weaving in the game,director William Friedkin & cinematographer Tom Priestley Jr. gives the games a documentary closeness,via tightly held shots listening in on each team member helping to plan victory by chipping in.
Nolte often plays tortured characters who crumble under the weight of guilt and self-hatred. Here his character, Pete Bell, starts off as a confident con-man but eventually becomes a hunchbacked wreck. In the film's climactic sequence (possibly informed by a decade's worth of NCAA athletic scandals), Bell stands before journalists and delivers an almighty confession, denouncing the corruption which spawns organically from systems reliant upon profit, loss and winning at any cost. Evocative of "And Justice For All", which featured a similar last-act rant by Al Pacino, the film also anticipates Spike Lee's "He Got Game", another basketball flick which milks similar themes.
7.9/10 – Worth one viewing.
To see a Shaquille O'Neal full of potential and natural talent (yet not yet spoiled by his own success) is a thrill - even for a Kings fan. His acting isn't the point; it's the few scenes that show him actually playing basketball that are worth watching for.
Nick Nolte plays a college basketball coach, coaching at a major California basketball school (which might as well be UCLA), clearly modeled after Bobby Knight. He's a hot-tempered, aging and increasingly frustrated, old-school guy whose record has slipped in recent years. A shady booster enters the picture, trying to convince him that if he wants to be on top again, he has to start playing "the game" with recruits. He has to start making deals. Coach Nolte is initially hostile to the guy, but after it looks like he's going to get shut out of getting three huge recruits, he reluctantly changes his mind. Nolte gives an excellent performance in this movie. Everything that he does in the movie, whether it's angry tantrums against refs or the occasional dose of humor, he does well. He is convincing as a guy who just wants to mold student-athletes and coach the game that he loves. The speech that he gives at the end is priceless.
The more I read about recruiting, especially basketball recruiting, the more I feel like I need to take a shower. This movie perfectly captures the sleaze of the sport during its recruiting scenes. There's the scum bag "deal maker" mother, who tries to peddle her influence to the highest bidder. There is the superstar white kid, who recognizes his value and demands a huge pile of cash. One kid eventually gets a new car. The movie ultimately presents a pretty revolting picture of college athletics, and if you have followed the scandals at places like Auburn, you know that it is pretty accurate.
This movie could have been a failure, but it has that one important trait that all great sports movies have. It was made with a genuine love and respect for the sport. There is a lot of basketball porn in this movie, perhaps even too much. There are scenes that show Nolte coaching Xs and Os. The coaches yell out a bunch of terminology during practices and games, as opposed to 95% of sports movies, where coaches never sound like actual coaches. Blue Chips tries to be one of the more realistic sports movies ever made, and it largely succeeds. It perhaps goes a little too far though with the basketball porn, showing tons and tons of slam dunks and three pointers. If you watch this movie, you would get the impression that 90% of the scoring in basketball is due to these two plays. It also has a somewhat annoying appearance by Dick Vitale, which serves no purpose except to remind you that you are watching a basketball movie. The movie also shoehorns a few too many current basketball stars into it. That might have made it sell better at the time, but do you really care now whether Penny Hardaway and Bobby Hurley appear in it? (And Hurley plays for Indiana in this movie – LULZ).
The worst part about this movie, ultimately, is the casting of the basketball stars in it. Namely, Shaquille O'Neal, who can't act his way out of a paper bag. To make matters worse, they give his character the most interesting background story, that of a Gulf War veteran with a "Black power, we shall overcome" type attitude. He's awful. He's really awful. It's as if he had a part written for Ice Cube or Denzel Washington, but then the studio decided that they needed a big name star in the case. He doesn't have many lines, but the ones that he has are not good.
Blue Chips is one of those sports movies that you should see at least once. It's unlikely that you will remember it amongst the best that you have seen, but if you follow college athletics, you should at least find it interesting. Blue Chips shows us the hypocrisy of college athletics, and the seemingly futile endeavor of trying to keep money out of the hands of athletes. It is though provoking, albeit a bit preachy. Given the current debates about whether we should be paying players, this movie is now more relevant than it ever has been.
Props to Shaq for dunking nearly continously during the film - once again showing that his shooting range is typically 2-3 inches. A shame too, because the movie highlight this stereotype and runs with it. Penny was alright, but in this day in age, where is his almost a forgotten player, it was more of a nostalgia to watch him in the movie.
Overall, the movie sucked. The moral plot was weak, and there was little else to the content of the film. By far the worst part was the ended which gives rather weak explanations of what happens post-ending.
5/10 stars for some decent basketball footage, and a different type of basketball movie. But it lacks five stars for poor plot, acting, and a sloppy ending which tries to tie together a bunch of moral stuff without much success.