D

Crossover

Hollywood makes frequent attempts at trend-spotting, particularly when it comes to whatever hip underground movement warrants mainstream coronation, but it isn't always willing to put the resources into getting it done right. For every The Fast And The Furious, there are several half-assed projects like Crossover, an end-of-summer throwaway that resembles last year's Supercross in its naked ineptitude and willingness to cut corners at every turn. The film's failures are especially egregious in that it's about street basketball, a fascinating subculture that hovers on the fringes of professional leagues, with not-quite-talented-enough ballers on the outside looking in. White Men Can't Jump covered much of this territory with dexterity and wit, but the game has changed 14 years later, and Crossover doesn't have the competence to make it exciting or the desire to explore what's really at stake for these players.

Set in rough-and-tumble Detroit—a locale faked through grainy second-unit establishing shots repeated ad infinitum—the film opens with a midnight streetball game where the usual rules don't apply. Traveling, double-dribbling, goaltending, and three-second violations are uncalled, only flagrant fouls are whistled (no autopsy, no foul), and the game goes to 21 by one, win by two. Presiding over the league is Wayne Brady, a former sports agent who runs the games through his bookie service and has a hand in determining his players' futures. Anthony Mackie plays a star point guard who recruits his gifted friend Wesley Jonathan for a one-time-only game that could cost him a university scholarship. That's a big risk with a snake like Brady around, and it becomes a bigger risk when Jonathan falls for a gold-digger played by America's Next Top Model winner Eva Pigford.

Even given limited means, director Preston A. Whitmore II seems to go out of his way to make the production look as amateurish as possible. His one slick technique—a jump cut, then a quick swish pan—gets worn down in the opening credits, and the scenes that follow strand the actors in scenes as awkward as Manute Bol on Celebrity Boxing. Poor Pigford, who was no doubt foisted onto the filmmakers like other ANTM contestants are squeezed onto Veronica Mars, makes her character so transparently devious that she practically has dollar signs in her eyes. And Mackie, an accomplished actor, is forced to wear a frozen scowl, which pays off in unintentional hilarity when he lays waste to a complimentary fruit basket. Any number of angles here would make a fascinating movie—the unrealized hoop dreams of street stars, underground bookmaking and hustling, or even just the maverick sport captured in high style—but Crossover isn't up for any of it.

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