Rebound: The Legend Of Earl "The Goat" Manigault

1997, Movie, R, 111 mins

Review

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Though plagued by uneven scripting, REBOUND: THE LEGEND OF EARL "THE GOAT" ANIGAULT remains a compelling treatise on wasted talent. The film was made for cable and subsequently released on home video.

In 1959 Harlem, young Earl Manigault (Colin Cheadle) is a shy student at Benjamin Franklin High School who stuns the local basketball players with his athletic prowess. With local organizer Mr. Rucker (Forest Whitaker) eyeing his progress on the court, the slightly older Earl (Don Cheadle) is swept into the wild off-court lifestyle of fellow ballplayers Legrand (Michael Beach), Diego (Eriq La Salle), and Dion (Michael Ralph). In trouble and expelled from school, Earl takes Rucker's advice and attends a prep school in South Carolina. He makes progress there, both in his studies and with fellow student Evonne (Monica Calhoun), whom he impregnates.

Earl is granted a college scholarship, but has troubles obeying his new coach. After he learns of Rucker's death, he becomes disraught and heads back to Harlem, where he winds up doing heroin with Dion, who is murdered. He begins buying drugs from Legrand and shooting up with Diego, who lost his hands in Vietnam. Within six months, Earl turns to begging and theft. Suffering from withdrawal, Diego overdoses and dies. Earl is then arrested, and two years pass. He goes cold turkey and comes out clean. He later makes peace with Evonne. Finally, he meets with Legrand, who has been controlling the steady drug traffic in the neighborhood park. Legrand agrees to remove his dealers from the park, giving Manigault the chance to start a children's basketball league as the first step in his new life.

Based on a true story and featuring the real Earl Manigault in a short appearance as a cleaning man, REBOUND is a winning effort from first-time actor-turned-director Eriq La Salle ("E.R."). The film falters slightly, due to annoying plot holes and familiar sports-movie cliches. Overall, though, its excellent pacing, stark visuals, and relevant subject matter elevate it head and shoulders above the regular crop of made-for-cable movies. Early sequences in the film parallel the careers of Manigault and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who in a pre-credits sequence reveals that "The Goat" was the best he ever played against. Oddly, this comparison isn't sustained, and Abdul-Jabbar's name is never mentioned in the latter half of the film. Another structural incongruity involves the film's first scene: a specific incident, involving Manigault being saved from a drug-addled spree by some children, is depicted at the outset, and then never mentioned again. Given the dramatic nature of the scene, and the fact that the incident would have occurred at about the midpoint of the film's chronology, it's a jarring omission.

Leading man Don Cheadle (BOOGIE NIGHTS) does an excellent job capturing the self-destructive side of Manigault, but surprisingly, the film falters during the sparse hoop-action scenes, with flaccid camerawork and editing. This misstep can be overlooked, though, thanks to the superb acting. La Salle, as a heroin-addicted Vietnam vet who lost his hands in the war, and Michael Beach as a stereotypical street pusher, both do fine jobs portraying the two ends of the drug spectrum--the user and the dealer. The soundtrack, highlighted by Stevie Wonder's "A Place in the Sun," is full of classic Motown tunes that provide the film with a fittingly nostalgic backdrop. (Adult situations, profanity, sexual situations, violence.) leave a comment

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