Last night, the Magic Johnson theaters on 125th in Harlem saw the New York City premiere of the hoop movie Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot. Dime’s Andrew Katz attended the event, his review of the flick is below. The movie is in theaters this Friday, June 27th.
Seriously, you’ve never seen basketball like this before. It’s not just that Brandon Jennings mummifies his man with electric ball handling before zipping a frozen rope to Kevin Love for a monster tomahawk. It’s that the fresh, colorful documentary Gunnin For That #1 Spot (select theaters NYC, LA, Portland, Ore., and Philadelphia, Pa.; June 27th) captures the personalities of eight sure-fire future NBA gems as you’ve never seen them before, on their respective treks from different corners of the country to Harlem’s hallowed Rucker Park for the first ever Elite 24 tournament.
Gunnin’s producer and director Adam Yauch (better known as MCA of The Beastie Boys) kept the cameras rolling at all times to collect amazing tidbits from the next generation’s basketball elite. On the asphalt at Rucker, we have a courtside seat for the conversation between big men Michael Beasley and Kevin Love. When ’08 point guard Brandon Jennings tries to weasel his way in, Beasley playfully shoots Jennings down like an older brother with a “Jennings, you keep your mouth shut!” Or, as Beasley jab steps before blowing by Donte Greene, “You ugly as shit, Donte.” These are priceless excerpts that gives the viewer an insider’s look at what these guys are really like.
In fact, the film is brimming with personality. Beasley finds his way into the camera’s lens more than anyone, clowning on everybody. When we meet a goofy long-haired Kyle Singler within the film’s first minutes in an Oregon gym, he pulls off a crazy trick shot straight out of the old Michael vs. Larry McDonald’s Big Mac commercial – off the floor, off the ceiling, and in. We trail Lance Stephenson through the streets of Coney Island, getting a rare first-hand account of what the young phenom sees every time he sets foot outside of his house. It’s kind of crazy to see kids and grown men stop and stare at Lance as if he were Muhammad Ali running down 125th street.
“That was the objective going into it,” says Yauch. “I said that the most interesting way to see the game would be if you kind of knew the players, or at least felt like you had some vested interest watching it. So that was kind of the idea – to pick a handful of players and to really get to know them, their families, and the people around them to get a sense of who they really are.”
After accompanying Lance, Singler, Bayless, Beasley, Love, Jennings, Donte Greene, and Tyreke Evans from their homes, gyms and barbershops to Harlem, the film focuses on the back-and-forth action of the Elite 24. In doing so, Gunnin’ adopts a Matrix-like flavor for the game’s highlights. It’s the film’s coolest feature, and perhaps the most dynamic addition I’ve ever seen on a basketball flick. Each possession is broken down into super slow motion and paired up with enhanced audio, which makes each pass, catch and dunk come to life. You’ll have a whole new appreciation for Kevin Love’s outlet passes when hearing it travel the length of the court as if it were a homing missile crashing into a target.
“I think it makes it kind of surreal to isolate some of those sounds,” says Yauch. “It brings your attention to certain places – it’s definitely a project to build each one of those moves. Each time you see something in the film that goes by in two seconds that makes you feel like, ‘Whooaaa,’ that’s usually hours that go into building every frame of that.”
As Yauch toys with the movement of the ball to create a total body experience for the viewer, he also highlights the rhythmic flow of the man behind Rucker’s mic, Bobbito Garcia. Bob’s witticisms work as another layer to the film’s soundtrack. He implores, “Be Easssy, Mike Beasley!” and teases out a nickname for Kevin Love: “Kev Love, Kevlar, Bulletproof.” Combined with the vrooms, doinks, and swooshes of the ball, Bob’s wordplay guides us through an exciting uptempo All-Star shootout. You’ll feel satisfied by the time the “Skip to My Lou” blue squad emerges with a 141-139 win.
Even if you’ve got to “Pay Up” (Jerryd Bayless’s nickname) to get into one of the select theaters where Gunnin’ is shown, it’s most definitely worth the price of admission.
For more info on Gunnin’, including a preview trailer, go HERE.