White Men Can't Jump

Pickup basketball in L.A., choreo-graphed by writer-director Ron Shelton (Bull Durham) from the first dunk shot to the last hissed "muthafucka," inspires a series of comic riffs between Sidney (Wesley Snipes), the black hoop master, and Billy (Woody Harrelson), the nerdy white boy who cons him. Snipes and Harrelson are natural athletes as well as actors, and their raunchy byplay has a muscular poetry.

Shelton also provides parts for two feisty actresses — Tyra Ferrell, as Sidney's no-bull wife, and Rosie Perez, as Billy's boozy lady, who yearns to get on Jeopardy! (she does, hilariously). What Shelton fails to provide is a coherent structure; the film is wearyingly repetitive. The boys do the same hustle and hurl the same racial epithets as our goodwill dribbles away.

From The Archives Issue 184: April 10, 1975