Ask any studio exec, and they’ll tell you that summer action heroes require gadgets and special effects. Will Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot—which looks like it was made for a buck fitty—toss that conventional wisdom in the trash? Hopefully so, and from the three-point line. The two-dozen high-school basketballers assembled in this stupefyingly enjoyable doc are the future Iron Men of the NBA. (Many are already college stars.) Shot from below, they float majestically in slo-mo, shatter backboards and inspire fierce recruitment efforts from sneaker companies and schools. On a summer day in 2006, the boys are shipped in from Compton, Baltimore, even Whiteboy, Oregon, to play an outdoor game in Harlem. Things will never be this innocent again.
On hand to shoot this “Elite 24” showdown was Adam Yauch, better known as a Beastie Boy. It may be time to start taking Yauch seriously as a filmmaker and not just the “Body Movin’?” guy. In merely two features (this and 2006’s anti-auteurist Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!) he seems to grasp documentary concepts that elude many pros. His five-boroughs pride results in a strong sense of place, with testimonials about Harlem’s historic Rucker Park given the same weight as the gamesmanship. Both movies are extremely social and communal, suggesting the polyglot spirit that is the city’s most beautiful contribution to the world. And Yauch’s ear for music and rhythm is slammin’; this is easily the year’s best soundtrack, with room for M.I.A. and the Staple Singers alike. As a sports film, it doesn’t dig as deep as Hoop Dreams, but Gunnin’ will surely prove as inspiring.