One of the most gratifying type of stories in film is that of the underdog; one up against all the odds to get the win and succeed. Films like these are uplifting and at times we can see ourselves facing off against our own struggles. Stories that incorporate real life situations are even more memorable because it isn’t just a movie: Rudy, 42 and Cinderella Man are all about the individual told they couldn’t be something and keep fighting. The newest film from director Danny A. Abeckaser, Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story,incorporates these same themes in telling the story of the street hoops legend from Brooklyn, New York.
The film tells the story of Jackie Ryan in 1990 when he was offered a try out spot for the New Jersey Nets. Jackie earned a local reputation playing college and later playing courts throughout the city. Considered by many to be an untapped talent with a sweet jump shot, Jackie had many obstacles to overcome including his father, best friend and most of all himself in trying to make a name for himself. Along Jackie’s side is his best friend/agent Marty, played by James Madio (The Basketball Diaries, Band of Brothers) who plays second to Jackie similar to that of Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy or Edward Norton in Rounders. The story would not be much though without a good protagonist and that is Greg Finley (The Flash, The Secret Life of the American Teenager) in his portrayal of the very charismatic Jackie Ryan. In what some would consider a turn in character David Arquette (Scream) plays the very hostile, racist father to Jackie and Ashley Greene (The Twilight Saga) rounds out the cast as Jenny, Jackie’s old crush.
The film is heavily rooted in Jackie’s tryout for the NJ Nets and he has already earned his local status; a problem because I feel we should had followed Jackie in his basketball career to get a sense of his talent. Aside from jumping right into Jackie’s story the film makes it hard to really root for him. We are treated very early on to his budding romance with Jenny as well as a training montage but in an instant we cut to Jackie doing drugs, getting drunk and messing around with other girls. Although it is Marty who pushes this agenda it is ultimately Jackie who follows through and even exacerbates the situation. The film feels as if it reaches its peak, the tryout, too early and from there we scramble to make others pieces fit: his broken relationships with his father & Jenny, his forced rivalry with current NBA player and a makeshift friendship with sports writer Peter Vecsey, played by Geoffrey Cantor (Daredevil). There are elements that make you root for Jackie and want him to succeed but unfortunately the film is not able to weave the right formula to give us that go to victory celebration.
2 out of 5
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Twitter (Jackie Ryan’s Account)