Thursday, October 29, 2020

Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story Review: A Slam Dunk Performance By Finley For This Street Ball Legend

Release date: October 30, 2020
Running time: 90 minutes
Starring: Greg Finley, Ashley Greene, David Arquette, Robert Davi 
Directed by: Danny A. Abeckaser

The story of the hot-tempered and self-centered Brooklyn native and street basketball legend Jackie Ryan (Finley).  His dreams of playing professional basketball seem to have passed him by after years of hard partying and neglect. He works construction alongside his overbearing father (Arquette), and his wisecracking best friend Marty (Madio). After being spotted at the famous West 4th basketball court for his incredible talent, Ryan is invited to try-out for the New Jersey Nets and is forced to confront his inner demons, family conflicts, relationship drama, and turn his life around.

Danny A. Abeckaser	...	producer David Gindi	...	executive producer Isaac Gindi	...	executive producer B.D. Gunnell	...	line producer Vince P. Maggio	...	producer Ron Rofe	...	executive producer  Directed by  Danny A. Abeckaser	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Antonio Macia
I am a sucker for a good sports drama and Blackjack has plenty of basketball action.  But the film is less about the basketball and more about Jackie's personal journey of growth and confronting the impediments to his own dreams.  This film is similar in that respect to another fantastic basketball movie that came out earlier this year, The Way Back.  But whereas The Way Back was a more serious, thoughtful drama around basketball, Blackjack has a lighter tone but deals with a similar self destructive attitude.  And Blackjacks' lighter tone and style really make it stand out.  The film is set in the 90s and is a love letter to that era of film and sports.  The film has bright colors, loud music, and a vibrant style that is reminiscent of the era and the streetball subject matter.  And a lot of this is accomplished by Greg Finley's portrayal of Jackie.  I've never seen Jackie play, but I imagine that Finley's boisterous, cocky, and plain fun game is an accurate portrayal of the street legend.  Finley shows the hot headed person along with the constant self-destructive nature.  Ashley Greene as Jackie's love interest and positive influence was another great character, a strong female counterpart to Jackie's loud personality.  However, I do wish that her story was explored more, although to be fair the film is based on Jackie.  She plays a pivotal role, but doesn't feature as prominently as I was hoping.  It was also fun seeing David Arquette on the big screen again, as a caring and slightly flawed father that exhibits some tough love and lessons for Jackie.  

But Blackjack is deeper than its loud exterior lets on.  The film deals with some difficult subject matter without overtly clueing the viewer in.  There is an interesting intersection of race and expectations that is touched upon, though very lightly.  There is also a lot on life expectations versus reality, and the amount of work needed to make those come true.  Jackie has all the talent in the world and the support of those around him, but he also succumbs to influences that do not have his best interests at heart.  The film focuses on talent versus hard work, and what it can take to succeed.  Sometimes you can't get by on simply talent, but need to show something more to actually take the next step.  And I would be remiss to not mention the actual basketball in this film, with some fun street games and talented players highlighted.  Like I said, the basketball is a central part, but the film deals more with Jackie's character and personal journey.  Though, as with every good sports drama, it ends with a climactic game that will have you cheering until the final bucket. 

Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story is a slam dunk portrayal of the legendary street baller, with a boisterous performance by Finley and a loud style to match the street ball subject and hot-tempered athlete.


Sports Inspirational Drama Basketball Street Streetball Brooklyn Jackie Ryan Blackjack Sports Sport competition dreams pain
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Blackjack: The Jackie Ryan Story is available in theaters and on demand on October 30, 2020. 

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