Wednesday, July 31, 2013

BLUE CHIPS (1994) - William Friedkin


I wasn't expecting to like the Friedkin college basketball flick Blue Chips at all. I played a little bit of b-ball back in the day, though definitely not in college and definitely not in exchange for sports cars, big pay-offs or brand new tractors. Corruption in sports probably ranks near the very bottom of my World Concerns list. If athletes can get big money for putting a ball through the hoop, I say let 'em have it. If they want to dope, let them do dope. If they want to smoke crack while cycling the Tour de France, fine by me. I don't watch a ton of sports, so I generally don't put these guys on high pedestals. When you've got a 7 foot 1 inch Shaq Diesel as your co-star, honestly, you don't really need a pedestal anyway.

Despite being a movie made smack dab in the '90s and concerned with a then-pressing issue (college athletes getting beaucoup bucks), Blue Chips has trace elements of idealist '70s charm, which surprised me. Some of this comes from Friedkin's direction, which is mostly Hollywood sports movie standard. Some of it probably comes from go-to sports scribe Ron Shelton's agreeable script. It's not Hoosiers by any means, but somewhere in between these two men they held their ground, ensured that the movie be not about who wins the big game but who gets to keep their ideals in tact.

That would Coach Pete Bell, an obsessive, ref-baiting curmudgeon played by Nick Nolte, a riff on Indiana's Bobby Knight (also in the film). I can watch Nick Nolte in anything. Give him a mic and the Manhattan phone book (if such a thing still exists) and let him grunt and curse and I'm happy. The main reason Blue Chips was a more rewarding experience than expected is because it's all Nolte's show. He yells. He curses. He drinks. He snarls. He dances (poorly) in a Baptist church. He even plays one on one with ghetto kids on a street court at the end. Overpaid athletes...pish-posh...who cares. Blue chip actors? That is Nick Nolte. Hire him to do whatever. The man's worth every damn penny.

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