Apr 13, 2018
Today’s movie is “Amateur” (2018), the debut feature-length sports drama from Ryan Koo. The film follows Terron Forte (Michael Rainey, Jr.), a fourteen-year-old basketball phenomenon admitted on scholarship to a private academy with the help of Coach Gaines (Josh Charles), becoming the target of the seedy world of college and professional recruiters.
The trailer really undersells the story of Terron Forte, focusing on his basketball skills and making almost no reference to his dyscalculia, or number blindness, the number version of dyslexia. In fact, in one of the very first scenes, the film uses some neat editing effects to simulate dyscalculia on a blackboard, which took me by surprise, and then later when looking at a shot clock and scoreboard. In some ways it almost feels like a bait and switch, because his diagnosis ends up being way more interesting than his basketball skills.
Koo’s script and direction both have their strengths and weaknesses. I found Koo’s use of music and livestream montages to be great, in addition to the various forms of dyscalculia. However, I also felt there was too much story, once Terron’s diagnosis is included into the picture, and as the film heads towards the climactic confrontation with Coach Gaines, the overall tone goes from struggle to serious to almost saccharine.
Which brings us to the various meanings and messages to pull from this film, including a look at modern sports recruitment, the buying and selling of children by parents and coaches as a not so subtle slave metaphor, and the lack of focus on education over athletics. And with all that happening, I’m not exactly sure if the ultimate resolution is the right solution to the larger problems with sports recruitment.
“Amateur” (2018) is an overloaded, undersold sports drama, pregnant with meaning, but has troubles delivering. Michael Rainey, Jr. puts in a great performance, helping to carry the film to the end despite its shortcomings. Fans of basketball and sports dramas will appreciate this film, but may find it to be too much story for ninety minutes.
Rotten Tomatoes: NR
One Movie Punch: 6.6/10
“Amateur” (2018) is rated TV-MA and is currently streaming on Netflix.