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Published: Friday, 9/1/2006

Movie review: Crossover *


I don t know much about the underground street-ball scene in Detroit, and you probably don t, either. This is why we have the movie Crossover to fill us in on the details of this opportunity.

The director is Preston A. Whitmore II, an unknown from Detroit; but with a distribution deal from Columbia Pictures in his pocket and a midlevel name as his lead (Anthony Mackie), let s assume Preston knows from which he speaks and the glory of street ball will inevitably be found on ESPN2.

Say you want to start a league.

Crossover is your blueprint.

You will need the following:

A large abandoned Gothic train station, such as the one on the east side of Detroit used for game scenes. Don t worry about police; no one seems to notice the burning barrels outside that signal a game is in progress. And yes, you need burning barrels; it s all about lending atmosphere. You will also need Wayne Brady. He plays the shifty impresario of underground street ball (though not half as menacing, surprising, or enigmatic as he was in that infamous Training Day satire on Chappelle s Show).

You will need soccer moms. Don t ask me why. Perhaps it has something to do with the pool of extras available in Detroit, but I noticed quite a few soccer moms turn out for these vaguely illegal games way after midnight. The games come with a nightclub attached; though there should only be four or five people on the dance floor, as if it were the first hour of a wedding reception. To indicate a party is going on during your underground street-ball games, buy a lava lamp and tilt the posters on the wall if tilted correctly, your club should scream par-tay.

About the games:

Wayne explains there are no rules, other than you are not to argue with the refs, which is a rule, but there you go. Judging from the film, games should have no tension and players should immediately leave the court to indulge in soft-porn-quality moments of awkward exposition and uplifting messages such as: I gave you leeway, so you could get your GED, improve yourself! Your hero should hook up with the right girl, but his buddy should hook up with a gold digger.

There is one reason to see Crossover. It was shot in Detroit. Occasionally we get a montage of Motor City landmarks (Greektown, the RenCen, etc.) that looks approved by the Chamber of Commerce. (For a film made by a guy from Detroit, the local flavor is tapioca; you d think he shot in Toronto.) There s also a half a reason: The story is mild up-by-the-bootstraps material about growing up, getting out. And there s a quarter of a reason: Crossover is a lesson in no-cost filmmaking namely, the lesson is that it s not your budget that sinks you but your imagination.

Contact Christopher Borrelli at: cborrelli@theblade.com or 419-724-6117.

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