I loved watching this, paid attention to the access afforded by the phone-cam cinematography and the always-good Soderbergh editing. But is it just me, or does nothing major actually happen? There’s an NBA lockout, agent Andre Holland threatens status quo by proving that the players can play for big money without the league, and the owners and players suddenly come to an agreement. It’s a strong move within the system, earning the players a small percent higher pay in negotiations, but doesn’t upend the power structure as promised.
The cowriter and costar of Moonlight, along with that Netflix money, apparently gave Soderbergh a chance to revisit his abandoned Moneyball project, dramatizing “the game on top of the game” and cutting away to interviews with sports stars. The movie is all dialogue, but either it’s omitting some conversations or I didn’t pick up on some of the sly maneuvering, since I still don’t know how the climactic one-on-one between rookie Melvin Gregg (excellent as the dupe pawn who never realizes he’s being played) and established star Justin Hurtt-Dunkley is arranged. The excitement around this game, staged only for a community gym run by Bill Duke (Commando, director of Hoodlum) forces a quick settlement between owners-rep Kyle McLachlan and players-rep Sonja Sohn (Kima!). I guess Andre gets fired as Melvin’s agent but keeps his agency, his former assistant Zazie Beetz (Atlanta) who helped pull the strings is moving up, maybe Andre is getting his boss Zachary Quinto’s job, and again I’m missing some details, but it’s pulled off so convincingly.