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The Crack Magazine



Director: Ben Affleck

Stars: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Viola Davis, Chris Tucker, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Julius Tennon

Based on the true events that led to Nike signing superstar basketball player Michael Jordan, Affleck’s picture is part knockabout comedy drama and part feel-good inspirational tale. It’s far more successful as the former.

A blast of period sound and vision (Wham, Cabbage Patch Kids, Dire Straits’ ‘Money for Nothing’, that Apple ad) crashes us into 1984.

Reuniting with Affleck, Matt Damon is Sonny Vaccaro, a senior marketer and head of the basketball division at the then-underperforming Nike. Sonny, along with the Nike team, the indulgent, soft-centred marketing exec Rob Strasser (a scene-stealing Bateman) and ex-player-turned-suit George Raveling (Wayans) the sole African-American in the team, are deliberating over which three basketball players they are going to spend their quarter of a million budget on.

Sonny’s big idea is to pool all of the money into one player and approach the up-and-coming rookie Michael Jordan. Gradually through sheer force of will, he is able to bring his colleagues around to the idea, then get it signed off by eccentric Nike CEO Phil Knight (Affleck).

Initially, Jordan’s aggressive agent David Falk (Messina) will not even consider a meeting with the Nike team, favouring bigger players likes Converse and Adidas. So Sonny controversially circumvents Falk altogether and approaches Michael’s parents. Jordan’s canny mother Deloris (Davis), it emerges, is the key.

The first half is distinguished by keen pacing, some popping dialogue and a winning blokeish comic rapport between Damon, Bateman, Affleck and Wayans. The picture sails too close to starry-eyed hagiography in the later scenes, although Davis brings a watchful wiliness to Deloris. Strasser’s midway musings on the true meaning of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ beneath the bombastic sound, as well as a subsequent appearance of the song in the soundtrack, moots a subversive intent which never really materialises. An end titles breakdown of Nike’s astronomical profits is hastily followed by info insisting how much money was donated to charity.

Air is out on 5th April

David Willoughby

Follow David on @DWill_Crackfilm

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