Affleck’s slam dunk

While I’ve never been impressed by Ben Affleck’s acting chops, I have to admit he’s emerging as a formidable director (Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and a Best Picture Oscar for Argo).

This is the true story of how in 1984 Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), a shoe salesman for Nike, led the campaign to gain the endorsement of a then-unknown high school basketball player named Michael Jordan. Nike at the time was running a distant third behind Converse and Adidas in terms of star athlete endorsements.

Most moviegoers know that the best sports movies have little to do with sports. That’s true here too, but it’s amazing how Affleck has taken a story about boring old corporate America, shot mostly in offices and conference rooms, about a bunch of white executives chasing a gifted black man, and turned it into an energetic, constantly engaging, well, underdog sports movie. Not only did Nike win out, but the partnership forever changed the game and the field of celebrity endorsements.

One of Michael’s conditions for his support was that Viola Davis play his mother, and he couldn’t have been more spot on. While the role of Deloris Jordan is essentially a supporting one, Davis very quietly owns every scene she’s in.  No, make that the entire movie. The rest of the movie is flawlessly cast, featuring Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, Affleck himself, and Chris Messina is hilarious as a sports agent nobody likes and who doesn’t care.  The brilliant script is by Alex Convery. On Prime. (111 min)