Like many an aspiring basketball player, Matthew Scott Krentz is a promising young filmmaker making the jump into the big leagues far too soon. Biting off more than he can chew for his first feature, the writer-director-producer-star proves a skilled composer of individual scenes, capable of wielding a camera with style, yet never assembles these pieces into anything resembling an intelligible film. Commercial prospects for the overlong pic look dim, though it should open doors for its helmer.
Krentz stars as John, a height-challenged junior college basketball player with little chance of scoring a sports scholarship, who agrees to tutor star teammate Jacob (Jimmy McKinney) in exchange for ballplaying tips. Jacob seems bound for the big leagues, with only a failing grade in a Shakespeare class (and a trouble-prone cousin edging his way into the employ of the neighborhood crime capo) holding him back.
That, at least, is the pic’s primary plot strand, though it’s often forgotten for long stretches as Krentz attempts to load the film with seemingly every scene he’s ever wanted to shoot. An arresting early sequence, for example, deftly crosscuts between a bruising bare-knuckle streetfight and a nearby storage shed in which a young man is tied up, a noose around his neck, standing on top of a quickly melting block of ice. An exciting premise, to be sure, though it turns out to have nothing to do with the rest of the film. Later digressions to a melancholy St. Patrick’s Day parade and the set of a porn shoot are equally irrelevant.
Tonal consistency is clearly not high on Krentz’s agenda, and the film flits between gritty urban drama, supernatural fable, inspirational sports pic, romantic comedy and kitchen-sink domestic melodrama, with dizzying speed. Despite its title, actual streetball has a surprisingly small role in the film, though the scenes on the blacktop are far and away the most impressively shot, and the contingent of ballers in the cast prove more watchable than many of the professional thesps.
The film features some nicely photographed images of St. Louis, a wholly underutilized shooting location, as well as some regionally specific hip-hop that contributes to a solid sense of place. Other tech contributions are rather spotty, however, and one more pass through the editing bay would have been a very good idea.