Billy: Shut up, man!
Billy: Shut up!
Sidney: Billy, listen to me, man.
Sidney: White men can't jump!
It's about two basketball hustlers, Sidney Deane (Snipes) and Billy Hoyle (Harrelson) who work the playground courts of Los Angeles. When Billy ends ups hustling Sidney, Sidney proposes the two of them team up to play in a tournament and to hustle other players as a warm-up beforehand. Written and directed by Ron Shelton of Bull Durham and later, Tin Cup, the movie boasts his signature snappy dialogue and a real handle on athletes and their egos. Also bizarrely got an In Name Only video game adaptation for the ill-fated Atari Jaguar.
This film contains examples of:
- Accidental Misnaming: Billy doesn't mind being called a "chump" (at least when he's Obfuscating Stupidity), but that's not his name.
- Arc Words: "Listen to the woman." Sidney always does; Billy tries, but doesn't do it much of the time. At the end of the film, Sidney's still with his wife Rhonda, but Gloria has left Billy for good.
- Batman Gambit:
- When Sidney points out the two players to beat at the tournament, Billy immediately starts insulting them, on the theory they won't play as well if they're too pissed off. It works.
- Also, in their hustle, when Sidney lets his opponents pick his partner in two-on-two from anyone in the crowd, knowing that they won't be able to resist picking Billy.
- Bait-and-Switch: After Billy pays off the Stuccis, we see a shot of him lying on the ground with Blood from the Mouth while a camera flashes. It's set up to appear like a crime scene, and the Stuccis whacked him. It turns out it was a deliberately faked scene and the Stuccis are the ones taking the pictures. They let him walk away, but keep the photo to add to their album, for the sake of their ruthless reputation.
- Berserk Button: Billy doesn't like having his playing ability challenged, which gets him into a lot of trouble; see Nice Job Breaking It, Hero below.
- Bittersweet Ending: More sweet than bitter. Billy and Sidney have gotten enough money so Sidney can move his family to a better neighborhood and Billy can finally pay off the Stucci brothers; not only that, but Billy and Sidney finally seem to be back on good terms, with him intending to get Billy a job. However, Gloria has most likely left Billy for good.
- Book Ends: The singing group at the beginning of the movie shows up at the end.
- Bookworm: Gloria, constantly pouring over almanacs.
- Catchphrase: "It's hard goddamn work making you look this bad!"
- Fatal Flaw: Billy's is his pride. He wins a game he was paid to throw, which is why he's on the run from the Stuccis. He stupidly bets (and loses) his tournament winnings that he can dunk, just because Sidney doesn't believe he can and Billy's ego can't take it. Later, he bets on a basketball game after promising Gloria he wouldn't, at least partially to prove he's still good enough to beat King and Duck.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: Billy gets Gloria on Jeopardy! by using his basketball skills to win a bet with a security guard who works the lot, which completely changes Gloria's life when she becomes a five-day champion. Gloria never finds this out and leaves him at the end because he bets some of her winnings (which she gave him) on a basketball game. Which he ends up winning.
- Hoist by Their Own Petard: When Billy and Sidney lose $1700 during a hustle they initiated, which just makes their tenuous money situations even worse. Subverted when Gloria sniffs out that Sidney actually just hustled Billy by playing bad on purpose.
- Hustler: Both Billy and Sidney are somewhere between this and Con Man.
- Jeopardy! Intelligence Test: Gloria is trying to save enough money to go on the show and is always studying. Eventually, she gets on the show and becomes a five-day champion.
- Jerkass: Sidney acts pretty selfishly throughout the movie, usually at Billy's expense.
- First, after an ostensible team-up, he hustles Billy out of $1700 which was all he and Gloria had, then refuses to even entertain the idea of giving it back. Gloria has to talk to Rhonda to work out a plan for them to get the money a different way.
- Then, after winning the tournament Billy can't take the blow to his ego by Sidney's insinuation that he can't dunk, so he impulsively bets Sidney his half of the winnings that he can do it. Sidney is sure Billy won't be able to do it and tries to talk him out of it, but he still takes the bet when he could have flat-out refused.
- Finally, he shows zero remorse at the end when Gloria leaves Billy, despite his part in how it happened. See Never My Fault.
- Logo Joke: The 20th Century Fox logo plays normally, but the music is re-arranged in a funky fashion.
- Motor Mouth: Everyone on a basketball court.
- Also extremely true for Gloria, who can rattle off long strings of facts without hesitation. As she's played by Rosie Perez, this is to be expected.
- Ms. Fanservice: Gloria.
- Never My Fault: Both Sidney and Billy are guilty of this.
- Sidney talks Billy into playing one last game after Billy had promised Gloria he'd stop playing. After she leaves him, Billy blames Sidney for talking him into it, despite the fact that it was ultimately Billy who agreed to go along with it.
- Sidney fires back at Billy by pointing out the above, but in such a way that his part in it is downplayed. He says, "I didn't have to talk to you for very long. I presented you with an option, and you took it." Despite the fact that Billy initially balked because of his promise to Gloria, and Sidney pressured him until he gave in, then stood by and watched Billy blow it without sticking up for him or explaining the extenuating circumstances.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- Billy does this three times. First, this is the entire source of the problem between him and the Stucci brothers; they paid him to throw a game, but one of the opposing players insulted his ability, he took offense, and ended up winning a game he was supposed to lose, which made the Stucci brothers upset, and now he's on the run. Secondly, after Billy and Sidney have won the tournament, Sidney insults his jumping ability, so Billy bets Sidney his winnings that he can, in fact, dunk the ball; naturally, he loses, and this causes Gloria to break up with him. Finally, after Billy and Gloria have gotten back together, and Sidney's apartment has been robbed, Sidney comes up to Billy asking him to play a game with him so he can win enough money to move. Billy leaves, which gets Gloria upset because Billy had promised to stop playing (plus he used her Jeopardy winnings as collateral), and she ends up leaving him for good.
- Sidney gets a pretty big one himself. Billy probably would not have lost Gloria if Sidney had done a better job explaining what was going on. If he had told her about the burglary and wanting his family out of Vista View, she would likely have cut him a break. Sidney instead pressures him into taking the game against King and Duck, and then he clams up and watches Billy hang himself by going against the very advice HE gave him to reconcile with her. Even if Sidney was newly desperate, this makes him look like a pretty big Jerkass. His throwing Billy's choice back at him in the pentultimate scene doesn't help either.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Billy's entire act; he dresses up in goofy clothes, does exaggerated workout routines and generally acts like an idiot so people will immediately think he isn't much of a player.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Gloria, and it drives Billy crazy.Gloria: Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie, and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose. Winning or losing is all one organic mechanism, from which one extracts what one needs.Billy: I hate when you talk like that.
- Shaped Like Itself:Rhonda: All I care about is getting out of the Vista View apartments, because there ain't no "vista", there ain't no "view", and there certainly ain't no vista of no view.
- Shout-Out: When Sidney and Junior first see Billy, they think he's something out of The Brady Bunch.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Billy and Gloria.
- Trash Talk: If there's one thing both Billy and Sidney (along with the other players) do as well as playing basketball, it's this. See Your Mom below.
- Your Mom: A particular favorite variant of the Trash Talk the players use.Junior: Your momma's so poor, I saw her kicking a can across the street, I asked her what she was doing, and she said, "Moving."