Playing Games: Our Review of ‘Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story’

Playing Games: Our Review of ‘Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story’

Sports movies have a way of transcending the game they are featuring and imbuing them with the human characters that create the magic. That magic is everywhere, in the arena, on the court, the rink, the ski slope. Its the human drama and their passion for their sport that is able to reach all viewers. These films pull viewers into the story whether they are fans of the sport they’re portraying or not.

Jackie Ryan, who Greg Finley plays in the film, is one of the greatest street basketball players of all time. A player that never made it to the NBA, despite his obvious skills. It’s an interesting premise, and Blackjack examines the road Jackie travelled.

There’s a missed opportunity here. Considering where Jackie ends up, and the team he plays for, I think it should have paid a little more attention to that team. Would he have thought it was real basketball? Would he have been conflicted taking the role? Instead it introduces us to a cadre of completely unlikable characters portrayed by a variety of veteran character actors. These actors include James Madio, David Arquette, Ashley Greene, and oddly enough, the always amazing Robert Davi as an Irish priest.

There’s no question that there is some troubling background and upbringing in Jackie’s life. His father, played by Arquette, is racist, and has delivered some of those beliefs on his progeny. But everything that happens to Jackie, despite the fact that he doesn’t seem to be interested in taking responsibility for it, is his own fault. He succumbs to the drinking, the drugs, the womanizing, and then gets angry when someone calls him out on it.

It would be fascinating to watch a character’s transition. He started as an arrogant b-baller that the film introduces to us at the beginning to the man he becomes. The man entertaining people around the world and raising a daughter. Instead we are shown that arrogance and anger is okay as long as you win. The character arc for Ryan in the film is flimsy at best, and its a little disappointing that we don’t get the emotional payoff of growth.

Some of the storytelling is disjointed, but the creative team behind the camera obviously love the sport. They wanted to bring to light one of the lesser known stories of the game. I just wish they had paid the characters a little more attention, and given us a three-pointer instead of just a quick scoring layup.

Still, basketball fans should check this one out, especially if they’ve never heard of Jackie.

Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story hits VOD this Friday Oct. 30th.

This post was written by
TD Rideout has been a movie fan since the moment he first encountered Bruce the Shark in 1975. As passionate about cinema as he is popcorn movies, his film education is a continuing journey of classics new and old. He is at his most comfortable with a book, a drink, his partner and his dog.
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