There seems to be a ton of documentaries that focus on basketball. For some reason, it’s the choice sport for non-fiction filmmakers, and with good reason. It’s a fast paced, action packed game that often carries high stakes, a must for any great sports drama. At the risk of being yet another basketball doc, The Street Stops Here does not disappoint.
The film focuses on the long running career of high school basketball coach Bob Hurley Sr. He’s one of those hard nosed tough-love guys that sports movies are made for. His 36 year career at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City has led to a record number of State Championships — 25 in total. Hurley is sure to remind his players that the basketball program isn’t about getting kids to the NBA, but providing them with a solid path to higher education and it’s definitely working. The majority of the kids that play under him go on to pursue a college education. After a long succession of championship wins, Hurley is faced with his biggest challenge yet as his senior class is about to graduate without having won a single championship — a first in his career. As Hurley pushes his players even harder, an equally tough financial war is waged off the court as the school attempts to raise enough money to keep its doors open.
Director Kevin Shaw handles this material with a cinematic eye, taking full advantage of the inherent drama of the sport and the story. It feels as though St. Anthony’s is always on the brink of complete collapse. While I would’ve liked to get to know the players a little better, I definitely felt myself pushing for these guys to secure their first championship and show the coach they’ve got what it takes. The fundraising aspect of the film is equally tense as the future of the school hangs on a few very important investors that wind up affected by the US economic collapse. As for the actual basketball games, Shaw manages to keep things high in energy and full of tension. There’s just something about a locker room at half time that is truly inspiring. The inclusion of Explosions in the Sky on the soundtrack is fitting although not entirely inspired. Their epic instrumentals certainly compliment the energy and emotions on the court but I can’t help but be reminded of Peter Berg’s use of the same tracks in his football drama Friday Night Lights. Having said that, I’m a sucker for a good soundtrack and the music still held the power even if it had been done before.
As a fan of sports dramas, The Street Stops Here was completely satisfying. It’s a stylish, dramatic and inspiring look at coach Hurley’s dedication to the sport and the kids of St. Anthony’s high school.
The Street Stops Here will premiere on PBS stations nationwide on Wednesday, March 31st at 10:00pm.