Blue Chips (Review)

blue_chipsWhat price winning?

In the professional NBA it is the players (and their agents) who have the power. The thirty teams are just prospective employers jostling for love and attention. Without the players they are nothing.

In the amateur college system, it is the ruling NCAA who have the power, especially now that it is very hard to enter the NBA without passing through college ball first.

As a player, if you enter the college system you do it under their rules, and all but the most high profile high school players know that without showing something at college level, a career in the highly paid big leagues is unlikely. Therefore it is important to go to either a big school with media attention, or to a program with high visibility, earned through either a history of winning, or through perhaps having a well known coach in charge.

The fictional Western University has a history of winning and a coach that lead them to glory, although the memories of both are fading. Pete Bell boasts an impressive record and an aggressive in-your-face style of leadership.

But the impact of fire and brimstone is diminishing quickly, especially after the first losing season in Bell’s career completes, and there is a rumour about other corruption within Bell’s program hanging in the air that he can do nothing to dispel.

With pressure from the media, fans and most relevantly the college administration and ‘boosters’ (high powered individuals who provide ‘support’) demanding results, this promises to be a key offseason in the history of Western U.

Pete Bell knows of programs who would offer under the table incentives to players to entice them to their university. He refuses to go down this path. The best coaches get results. But the best coaches also generally have at least a few of the best players. Western U has none. Without them there is no joy on the horizon.

Bell must choose between remaining clean and mediocre, or dirty and winning…

Let’s cut to the chase; Butch (Penny Hardaway) is a tall smart point guard. But he wants it all. His Mama wants even more. Ricky is cheaper. He is tall and can hit the outside shot. All his dad wants is a new tractor. Neon (Shaquille O’Neal) wants nothing. At seven foot plus with soft hands and quick feet Neon is the biggest thing able to stay under the radar – but he can’t spell ‘radar’, and therefore won’t qualify academically…

Despite the star power of 90s NBA stars Shaq and Penny, Blue Chips works far better as a drama highlighting the inbuilt deficiencies of the US college system that it does as a basketball highlights film. In fact there is really only one game proper, and that runs about 8 minutes or so.

No this is a film about Pete Bell and how corruption breeds corruption. You accept even $1 from a booster and you’re in their pockets, meaning total surrender of whatever power you thought you had. As the walls close in Bell only finds solace and support in the form of his ex-wife (Mary McDonnell) who still loves Pete but cannot accept his obsession with winning at all costs.

This is a good story and – besides the ending – probably happens a dozen times or so a year across America, where profit is on a pedestal far above academic or athletic achievement. Ultimately this is the companion piece to Any Given Sunday, minus the glitz and over-the-toppery of that indulgent film, and while it boasts more credibility, in entertainment terms it Blue Chips is slightly the worse for it.

Final Rating – 7 / 10. What price credibility?

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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