Rucker Park is pretty much synonymous with kick ass basketball. Dr. J, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant have all graced its courts. Once a year it hosts the top high school players in the country, and it is a huge event for the sport of basketball. Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot follows eight of the “Elite 24” players before and during the tournament at Rucker Park in the fall 2006. The audience is taken on a journey of high flying, flashy teenagers as they start their rise into fame. These kids are the perennial future of the NBA.
Directed by Adam Yauch of Beastie Boy fame, Gunnin’ is nothing like your average documentary. After a brief introduction of the insanity of high school basketball recruiting, Yauch highlights what we assume to be the top 8 players of the tournament. The audience sees each player at home, with family and friends, on their high school court, with their personal coaches, and highlights of their actual games. Finally they all come together for the tournament where their skills are showcased in front of an audience.
Pre-movie research had me super excited for this film. I love sports and this seemed like it was going to be a compelling documentary with one basketball highlight after the next with great music a key secondary focal point. And those two things were true. However, that was it. That movie lacked structure and, ironically, flow….which made an hour and a half feel like four. These high school teenagers had sporadic moments of talking about themselves and their skillsets, with locals they hung around with doing the same. However, as subject matters, the young basketball players never had the time or stage to actually evolve. Honestly, the most interesting part was Googling where these teenagers were now, and most of them were simply role players in the NBA.
While the music was unbelievable (I really am hoping there is a soundtrack) and the cinematography was straight out of a music video (come on, it’s MCA), the movie was lacking in storyline development, character evolution and follow-up. At the end of the movie, when the game is over, that’s it, there is really nothing more to see which leaves the viewer wondering what was gained from the time invested. I wanted to like this movie, no…I wanted to LOVE this movie. But, I just couldn’t. I was bored and I found myself Googling more than watching. Hats off to Yauch for trying to tackle the documentary genre, it’s a feat many wouldn’t think of touching. If you are a helpless basketball junkie, love great music and want to witness (essentially) children demonstrating offensive talent that defies all logic then give this movie a few hours of your time. But don’t expect the key elements that normally make documentaries one of cinema’s best mediums, as you will leave sadly disappointed.