“Crossover” tells the story of a couple of amateur basketball players who’s lives are headed in different directions. Anthony Mackie stars as Tech, a high school drop-out who scratches out a living hustling on the local basketball courts around Detroit. His best friend is Noah Cruise, played with an easy smiling charm by Wesley Jonathan. Cruise, as he’s known, plans to use his college basketball scholarship as a ticket to a career in medicine. However they’re drawn into an underground basketball tournament run by a slick promoter named Vaughn, played by Wayne Brady. Mysteriously though, for a film that draws us in with promises of spectacular streetball fireworks there is far too much angst ridden dialogue and not nearly enough basketball.
While the film follows a fairly predictable arc from the moment the curtain rises it is not all together without some charm. In the spirit of full-disclosure I must mention that like the writer and director Preston Whitmore, II, I’m from Detroit, where “Crossover” is set. Shots of downtown Detroit’s GM Headquarters, the infamous Joe Louis Fist sculpture and many other landmarks abound. In fact the abandoned train station is the setting for a couple of the film’s key scenes. So, maybe I afforded the film some lopsided refereeing, or home cooking, as we call it.
The film opens with some flashy camera work and a jumpin’ soundtrack that moves the action forward. We quickly find ourselves watching as Tech and his best friend Cruise square off against the reigning streetball champs. The games are run after midnight with capacity crowds who’ve put down some serious money. While the players tend to posture like thugs the game is actually pretty tame. There are referees and a flagrant foul is grounds for an automatic forfeit. In fact the clean uniforms, polished, hyperkinetic game, and a manufactured set actually drained some of the vitality from the scenes. Still, they possess enough wattage to entertain, with the players’ tremendous leaps, no-look passes and soaring dunks.
The film does a nice job of showing Detroit as more than just a burned out ghetto that film goers have come to expect. While there are the scenes of dilapidated homes and the bleak train station we also get shots of the busy Greektown section of the city. In addition Cruise lives with his grandmother in the upscale Palmer Woods neighborhood, in a home that comes complete with an in-ground swimming pool. In fact it’s here in the pool that Tech and Cruise start to make plans with their newly acquired girlfriends. Would you be shocked to know that those plans involve escaping to L.A.? Isn’t that always the goal?
Ah well, suffice to say that what “Crossover” may lack in fundamentals it makes up for in tenacity and heart. Naturally the action comes down to the big game, though there is at least one minor surprise leading up to it. I’m Erik Petersen for Movie Magazine International.
© 2006 - Erik Petersen - Air Date: 9/6/06
USA - 2006