Steven Soderbergh’s new film, “High Flying Bird”, about the ruthless business side of professional basketball, debuts on Netflix on February 8.

High Flying Bird
Andre Holland plays NBA agent Ray Burke in Steven Soderbergh’s new film, “High Flying Bird.” (Image: Netflix)

Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s 11, Magic Mike) teamed up with a playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight), who penned the screenplay for “High Flying Bird.”

According to Netflix’s tagline, “With only 72 hours to pull off a daring plan, he outmaneuvers all the power-players as he uncovers a loophole that could change the game forever. The outcome raises questions of who owns the game — and who ought to.”

Instead of a traditional theatrical release, this film will appear exclusively on Netflix.

New Basketball Movie

The word on the street in Hollywood is that Steven Soderbergh’s new film is less of a sports movie and more akin to “Jerry Maguire” meets “Oceans 11”. In that vein, “High Flying Bird” is more about the business-side of the NBA. There’s not much actual basketball and majority of the action occurs in boardrooms in skyscrapers.

“That was the trick, a sports movie with no sports in it,” said Soderbergh. “I think at the end of the day, people would be shocked to know how many world events are shaped by, or can be attributed to, a meeting between two people in a room.”

The film takes place in New York City during an NBA lockout. Agent Ray Burke (Andre Holland) has 72 hours to try to pull off coup and put power back into the hands of the players instead of owners, who built a new game of greed on top of their original game. Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) plays an unscrupulous NBA owner. NBA stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Donavon Mitchell made cameos as themselves in the film.

Hollywood Hoops

The film industry loves a good underdog story and Hollywood loves basketball. Los Angeles is the home to two pro hoops teams. There’s no shortage of stars who love the game. For a couple of decades, Gary Shandling hosted a secret basketball game at his house in Brentwood which was attended by the biggest names in comedy and Hollywood.

1. Hoosiers
2. White Men Can’t Jump
3. He Got Game
4. Blue Chips
5. Space Jam
6. Hoop Dreams
7. Above the Rim
8. The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh
9. Fastbreak
10. Semi-Pro

Spike Lee’s “He Got Game” (1998) was the last major basketball film that had crossover appeal to non-fans.

Some of the best sports films are disguised as other genres. Hoosiers was more a redemption story than a basketball movie. “White Men Can’t Jump” was a buddy comedy. The early reviews of “High Flying ” suggest it’s more of a heist movie than a traditional sports film. Then again, Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh is not your traditional director. He’s always blended genres.

“A rowdy big-business melodrama with fast talk and hoops,” said Vulture. “But the tone from the start is chill, bordering on mournful, and it’s marinated in righteous resentment.”

“High Flying Bird” will be available to stream on Netlfix starting February 8, 2019.

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