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Parents' Guide to


By Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Strong acting, clichéd storytelling in coming-of-age drama.

Movie R 2017 109 minutes
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While the performances are strong in this coming-of-age drama, it suffers from being too familiar and predictable, with wobbly, hand-held camerawork continually breaking the storytelling's spell. Writer/director Bart Freundlich (Catch That Kid) chose his cast well: Shannon is one of the greatest actors working today, and he isn't afraid to explore his character's deepest inadequacies. It looks like Smith can actually play ball, and, as Anthony's mother, Carla Gugino is an active character rather than just being there to support the male characters. Plus, Chris Bauer is striking as Anthony's Uncle Charlie, a man with a past of his own.

But Wolves' awkward, greenish-gray cinematography makes the character moments feel staged, rather than natural, and the random cutting makes the basketball games feel choppy rather than dramatic. Moreover, bits of plot feel awkwardly smashed into place, giving the characters less time to breathe and be fleshed out. But perhaps most distracting is the movie's similarity -- and, alas, inferiority -- to Karel Reisz and James Toback's excellent 1974 film The Gambler, as well as the 2014 Mark Wahlberg remake.

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