Review: ‘Hooked: The Legend of Demetrius ‘Hook’ Mitchell’

"Hooked" tells the story of "the greatest basketball player to never make it into the NBA," Demetrius "Hook" Mitchell. Hook is currently slam dunking behind bars while his childhood pals celebrate double-digit years in the pros. Docu boasts amazing archival and present-day footage of the 5'9" phenom in action. Pic should fare well on cable nets.

Part cautionary tale, part tribute, “Hooked” tells the story of “the greatest basketball player to never make it into the NBA,” Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell. Hook is currently slam dunking behind bars while his childhood pals celebrate double-digit years in the pros. At a compact 60-odd minutes, docu boasts amazing archival and present-day footage of the legendary 5’9″ phenom in action. Pic should fare well on cable nets aimed at sports and/or black auds.

Helming team of Michael Skolnik and William O’Neill (“Jails, Hospitals and Hip-Hop,” “La Esquina Caliente”) capture an all-pervading spirit of compassion from everyone interviewed. Without exception, NBA stars like Gary Payton, Antonio Davis, Brian Shaw and Jason Kidd, old buddies out of Oakland, generously rate Mitchell’s talent as superior to their own.

The NBA stars all say the only thing that distinguishes them from Hook is that they had parents and a home, while Hook was basically raised on the streets of Oakland’s Lower Bottom, adopted by drug dealers who gave him a gram of coke per dunk at high school games. Assorted samples of TV coverage of past slam dunk contests, invariably won by Hook, are contrasted with Brian Shaw’s account of a later competition he attended with pro teammates where his much-touted homie showed up red-eyed and shaky, racking up a dismal one out of 18 shots.

The actual events that led to Mitchell’s present lockup are not spelled out in detail, but it becomes clear that drugs have dragged him back to jail on several different occasions.

Correction authorities seem to have granted filmmakers virtually unlimited access to Hook. He evinces no bitterness, diligently applying himself to studies and his newfound Islamic faith. Thoughtful and likeable, “the legend,” as he is dubbed by everybody in the facility, only really comes alive on the basketball court, encouraging his prison teammates and even his opponents. Still prodigiously jumping and slam dunking his heart out, Hook is striving to rebound at age 34.

Hooked: The Legend of Demetrius 'Hook' Mitchell

Production

A Kicked Down/Fader Films production. Produced by Michael Skolnik, William O'Neill, Rob Stone, Jon Cohen. Executive producer William O'Neill. Co-producer, Martha Skolnik. Directed by Michael Skolnik, William O'Neill.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, DV), Mark Benjamin, Matthew Akers; editor, Martha Skolnik; music, DJ Premier. Reviewed on videocassette, New York, Sept. 21, 2003. (In Urbanworld Film Festival.) Running time: 64 MIN.

With

Demetrius "Hook" Mitchell, Gary Payton, Brian Shaw, Antonio Davis, Jason Kidd, Scoop Jackson, others.
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