Hey folks, Valkor here. When it comes to basketball, I'll admit I make a better viewer than a participator. As a kid I used to play a lot of street ball but I could never grasp the rules – what the hell is a walk? A double dribble? I don't even… And you know what? I no longer care. I'll stick to playing games like NBA Jam – two on two, no fouls, HE'S ON FIRE! Now that's my shit! So how does this relate to this next film review? Well take NBA Jam's no rules mechanics, toss in a heavy dose of drama, sprinkle in some romance, a few slices of conflicts and you have the recipe for Diego Hallivis's directorial debut "Game Time" (originally titled "The Duel"). Beware, heavy spoilers ahead.
Game Time centers on Vance (Phil Haus), recently moved to the big city from Wisconsin with his mom (Katherine Wessling) after they ditched on their abusive father/husband (Bruce Ross). Vance is having a tough time adjusting to his new life, especially at school. But thanks to new friend Jules (Jason Hurt), things start to pick up - he gets a little respect from his classmates and he even scores a hottie in the form of Lena (Noelle Mihalinec). But that's all because Vance has an agreement with Jules that he'll make school life better if he were to be his partner in an underground, half court, two on two, no holds barred (save for one foul) throw down called "the duel".
In the beginning the duo are unstoppable, until they have a spur of the moment match up with school bully and all-around thug Maurice (Antoine Harris), who it just so happens is Lena's ex. The defeat is heavy as they lose the money they were saving to enter the big tourney called "The Gathering", where the same duel rules apply and the winning team get to take home 50K. To complicate matters further, Vance makes a promise to Lena to stop dueling. However he sneaks in a match anyway (it was pretty much his fault that he and Jules lost against Maurice), missing a date with Lena putting their relationship at risk. On top of it all Jules's little brother is hospitalized after getting hit by a car trying to steal Maurice's ball. Another wrench in the works? Vance's dad re-enters his life, convincing his mom that he's changed. He hasn't. Finally, since Jules thinks Maurice is responsible for what happened to his brother, he sets out to extract some sweet revenge. Thankfully Vance steps in and convinces Jules that murder isn't the way to go and the dynamic duo team up once again for the big one - The Gathering.
Game Time kinda reminds me of Pressed where the first hour and change isn't so bad. But then it tosses in some conflicts that I feel doesn't necessarily have to be there. But unlike Pressed it doesn't change the overall dynamic of the picture. But I'll save that kinda talk for the TOV Breakdown.
When I first popped Game Time into my DVD player, I was expecting something much more… intense, something more fast-paced and action packed. I didn't get any of that; however I did walk away with a charming, story-driven, drama with some b-ball tossed in. Game Time isn't about this underground craze (for which I'm glad the title has been changed), it's about two youths looking for a better life – one who's trying to escape the shadow of his father and the other who simply wants something better for his family. The film is slow to start, but it picks up towards the end and the basketball duels really help move things along, plus they're fun to watch (I saw some globetrotter moves in there, nice touch). The acting is the film's strongest suit; Phil Haus puts on an amazing performance and carries the film well. Jason Hurt, mad props to you bro, you're definitely fun to watch… when your character isn't pissed off, which then feels a bit over the top. But I can deal with that. But the prize in this crackerjack box is up and coming starlet Noelle Mihalinec – beautiful, funny, bubbly, and playful, are just a few words I'd use to describe her portrayal of Lena. And that's another point I want to make before I close out on the acting – all of the actors (yep that includes you too Antoine Harris, I didn't forget you dawg, your acting skills are fire!), mesh so well together. Sure it's amateurish, but you don't see this type of perfect pairing in such independent films. And for that I thank you. Finally, the film's soundtrack is mad nice with some funky hip-hop beats you can't help but groove to.
When Vance first enters the picture, you don't automatically peg him as a high school student – yet in this film he is one. Or at least that's what the film expects us to believe. However no one comes right out and says these guys are in high school; for all we know this could be a small college? But given the setting, it looks like a high school and other than the Jules character and maybe Lena, everyone simply feels out of place, too old for this kinda setting. Second, the last 30 minutes or so tosses in some issues that feels so unnecessary. For instance, was there a need to have Roddy (Cortaz Griffin) hospitalized? From the start of Roddy eyeing Maurice's ball up to the accident and beyond, it's such a mess. Did Vance's dad have to come back? We seem him in a couple of flashbacks, the major one being the reason why he and his mom left him to begin with. But other than that his character isn't really all that important or he doesn't feel that important. A few more flashbacks could have been tossed in to show that emphasis. However these events don't hurt the film and it's more or less me nitpicking. Next, Game Time is too predictable; as you follow along with the film, you can easily tell how events are gonna play out. Again it doesn't hurt the film - it's just a minor distraction. Oh and why the one foul rule? No one ever calls a foul anyway, so that should have been erased from the story all together.
Whatever I said in the bad section doesn't make Game Time a bad film, which clearly it isn't. Predictable? Yes. Unnecessary conflicts? Yes. Is it fun to watch? Hell yes. Game Time is entertaining, engaging, with strong acting and some nice action throughout. I reccomend giving it a shot. So out of TOV 5 stars, I'm giving Game Time DVD a 3 and it's been Valkor Viewed, TOV Approved.