Summer of Sports Films: Blue Chips

Blue Chips illustration by Jeff Schwartzbauer

Blue Chips – 1994

Dir: William Friedkin | Starring: Nick Nolte, Mary McDonnell, JT Walsh, Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Matt Nover

Sport: Collegiate Mens Basketball

Review: You can divide this movie in to two chunks: The first 15 minutes and then the remaining 93. The first 15 minutes features a fantastic Bobby Knight-esque locker room tirade that is just overflowing with patented Nick Nolte “GODDAMNIT!”‘s as he yells at his first squad to ever produce a losing season under his guidance. The game that follows this tirade is orchestrated exceptionally and really captures the tension and excitement of a college game in the national spotlight. I would assume any college basketball fan would be eating this up and any layman could appreciate the excitement and atmosphere. However, the very second this game ends the movie drives the lane right into a smoldering garbage dump. The rest of the film focuses on Nolte’s attempts at recruiting new players cleanly in a world where collegiate athletics is dominated by under the table money. The three marquee players the film focuses on are portrayed by a real life college/pro players and each one of them is about as interesting as a parquet flooring tile with an acting performance to match. Shaquille O’Neal gets second billing on the films poster but its purely for marketing purposes to capture the insane hype he was receiving in real life at the time, his character “Neon Bordeaux” has a handful of lines all delivered as if they were just read to him seconds before film started rolling and various shots of him dunking with ADR’d “BRAWHHHH!” sounds played on top. While the other two marquee players backstories are extremely generic and predictable (black inner city kid / white country kid), Neon Bordeaux’s is ludicrous and shameful. Neon is some sort of un-coached behemoth hidden away in the jungles of Louisiana where Nolte literally has to travel by a boat to some lost island, cut his way through a jungle and be rushed through a dilapidated village by children to bare witness to this modern day King Kong in a secret underground basketball bunker. The film stops just short of having Nolte shackle him in chains and drag him away – I guess they must have figured that was where they should draw the line. Nolte is forced to suffer through various moral and ethical dilemmas to secure his top flight players via illegal methods as well as seek aid from his ex-wife to tutor his players and keep his underhanded schemes a secret. The writing and plot is in a constant struggle to make things interesting to non-basketball fans and experts alike – but it can never find a balance and just jumbles it all up so its a mess for everyone. As a Nolte fan I can watch him swear and curse in just about anything but with a supporting cast of uninterested actors and untalented non-actors you just keep wishing things would cycle back to when he was the only one talking during the first 15 minutes of the movie.

Whomever edited this trailer should have edited the whole movie:

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