White Men Can't Jump
|White Men Can't Jump|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ron Shelton|
|Written by||Ron Shelton|
|Music by||Bennie Wallace|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$90.8 million|
White Men Can't Jump is a 1992 American sports comedy film written and directed by Ron Shelton, which stars Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson as streetball hustlers. The film was released in the United States on March 27, 1992 by 20th Century Fox.
Billy Hoyle (Harrelson) is a former Tulane University basketball player who makes his living by hustling Los Angeles streetballers who assume he cannot play well because he is white. Billy never degrades his race when joining on pickup games; he simply allows his opponents, most of whom are black, to believe they have a natural advantage over him due to his race and clothing style. Such a player is Sidney Deane (Snipes), a talented but cocky player who is beaten twice by Billy, once in a half court team game and later in a one-on-one shootout for money.
Billy and his Puerto Rican girlfriend, Gloria Clemente (Rosie Perez), are on the run from mobsters because of a gambling debt. A voracious reader, making note of obscure facts, Gloria's goal in life is to be a contestant on the television show Jeopardy! and make a fortune. Sidney wants to buy a house for his family outside the rough Baldwin Village neighborhood. He proposes a business partnership with Billy and they hustle other players by deliberately setting them up to pick Billy as Sidney's teammate. At first their system is very successful, but when they unexpectedly lose a game, it turns out that Sidney had double-crossed Billy by deliberately playing badly to avenge his earlier loss to him, making Billy lose $1,700 to a group of Sidney's friends.
Gloria, who wants Billy to find a stable job, is incensed at Billy for blowing his money again, but realizes he got hustled after Billy tells her how it happened. They go to Sidney's apartment and appeal to his wife Rhonda for fairness, and the women agree to share the money provided Sidney and Billy team up for a major two-on-two outdoor tournament. Despite their constant bickering, Sidney and Billy win the tournament and the grand prize of $5,000, largely due to Billy's ability to disrupt his opponents' concentration. Billy's most notable claim is that he is "in the zone", a state of mind in which nothing can distract him. Sidney is pleased with the outcome, yet he cannot help mocking Billy about his inability to slam dunk.
Billy insists that he can indeed dunk, and after Sidney clearly disagrees, Billy offers to bet his share of the $5,000 on his ability to dunk. Sidney gives him three chances, telling him "white men can't jump," but Billy fails and squanders his share. When he tells Gloria, she leaves him. Desperate to get her back, Billy goes to Sidney for help. Sidney reveals that he has a friend who works as a security guard at the TV studio that produces Jeopardy! The friend, Robert, agrees to use his connections to get her on the show if Billy can sink a hook shot from beyond the half-court line, which he does. Gloria initially stumbles over sports questions (such as naming Babe Ruth as the all-time NBA rebound leader), but makes a comeback with a pet topic, "Foods That Begin With the Letter Q". She wins $14,100 on her first episode.
Billy sings Gloria a song he has composed and wins her back. As Billy and Gloria discuss their new future, this time it is Sidney who is desperate for Billy's help; his apartment was burglarized and his winnings stolen, so he and Rhonda are desperate for money so they can move to a better neighborhood. Gloria is expecting Billy to get a steady job and settle down, but Sidney informs him that two hoops legends of the L.A. streetball scene, "The King" and "The Duck", are playing at the courts downtown. Sidney asks Billy to partner with him in playing against them and Billy enthusiastically agrees, offering to gamble his share of Gloria's take. Gloria warns that if Billy gambles with her money, they are through, regardless of the outcome. Billy, feeling he must honor the obligation he owes Sidney for getting Gloria on Jeopardy! in the first place, sides with Sidney. They play a final game against King and Duck. In a very tight game, Sidney and Billy prevail, the winning point coming when Sidney lobs an "alley-oop" pass to Billy, who dunks it.
Returning home happy for having doubled the share that Gloria gave him of her winnings, Billy discovers Gloria has kept her word and left him for good, and is crushed. The mobsters who are after Billy track him down, and he pays off his debts. Realizing that Gloria has left him for good, Billy asks Sidney to set him up with a real job. Sidney remarks that Billy and Gloria may be better off without each other. The film ends as Billy and Sidney launch into yet another basketball argument and they return to the court where they first met to play a one-on-one game, but this time, as friends.
- Wesley Snipes as Sidney Deane
- Woody Harrelson as Billy Hoyle
- Rosie Perez as Gloria Clemente
- Tyra Ferrell as Rhonda Deane
- Cylk Cozart as Robert
- Kadeem Hardison as Junior
- Ernest Harden, Jr. as George
- Nigel Miguel as Dwight 'The Flight' McGhee
- Freeman Williams as Duck Johnson
- Louis Price as Eddie "The King" Faroo
- Marques Johnson as Raymond
- Alex Trebek as Himself
- Allan Malamud as Rocket Scientist
- Duane Martin as Willie Lewis
Bob Lanier, Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks legend and Hall of Famer, was hired as basketball coach for the film. He was impressed with Harrelson and Snipes, suggesting that both reached Division III college basketball skill level. He also noted that between the two of them, Harrelson actually was the better player.
The original music soundtrack and song "If I Lose" were composed by saxophonist and composer Bennie Wallace, who also scored Ron Shelton's film Blaze.
The musical R&B quintet Riff recorded a song and accompanying music video called "White Men Can't Jump" for the movie. The music video featured Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes and Rosie Perez. It can be seen on the DVD release with bonus features.
Marques Johnson has a supporting role as Raymond, who loses a game to Snipes and Harrelson. Johnson was a star player for UCLA's 1974–75 national championship team coached by John Wooden and later played for the NBA's Bucks, Clippers and Warriors.
Freeman Williams, who played "Duck" Johnson, also had a distinguished NBA career, playing for the Clippers, Jazz, and Bullets from 1978–86.
Two soundtracks were released by Capitol Records, the first, White Men Can't Jump was released on March 24, 1992 and consisted mostly of R&B, the second, White Men Can't Rap was released on April 7, 1992 and consisted entirely of hip hop.
White Men Can't Jump grossed $14,711,124 in 1,923 theaters in its opening weekend, with a total gross of $76,253,806 in the U.S. and $90,753,806 worldwide and was the 16th highest-grossing movie of 1992.
The film received positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 77% based on 53 reviews and an average rating of 6.4/10. The site's consensus reads: "White Men Can't Jump provides a fresh take on the sports comedy genre, with a clever script and a charismatic trio of leads."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half stars, saying it was "not simply a basketball movie", praising Ron Shelton for "knowing his characters". Janet Maslin from The New York Times praised Wesley Snipes for his "funny, knowing performance with a lot of physical verve". The film was a favorite of director Stanley Kubrick.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
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- "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-19.
- Fuster, Jeremy (January 17, 2017). "'Black-ish' Creator and Blake Griffin to Remake 'White Men Can't Jump'". The Wrap.
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