Kevin Durant’s drama looks like a dunk for Apple TV +

NBA star Kevin Durant shared his experiences as a young basketball player boasting, Apple TV + is a very promising sports drama. The series, which premieres Friday on Apple’s streaming service, follows the trajectory of a rising basketball star as he becomes a legend with the help of his community.

Driven by strong acting, kinetic directing and a compelling story of life on and off the field, Swagger results from the jump. It looks like one of the strongest Apple TV + series to date.

Swagger review

Baltimore teenager Jace Carson (played by Isaiah R. Hill) will be the next big thing in basketball. He exercises constantly, and his exercise regime has become a local legend because his mom (Shinelle Azoroh) posted them on Instagram.

He’s so big, in fact, that when some cops try to arrest him because he came out too late, they let him go because they saw his footage. The problem is in him he knows how good he is. His confrontational attitude and arrogance made him a persona non grata in local teams. It’s too hot. And mom supports him in that because she wishes him the best. But that means the only remaining team is the one coached by Ike Edwards (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), a former youth superstar who has never achieved great success.

Of course, everyone faces problems outside of their sports career. Ike tries to feed his family, but his team is not real money. (He works at a home improvement store to make ends meet.) His temperament gets him into serious trouble.

Off-field problems

Jace also has problems. His sister (Jordan Rice) is looking for their absent father, who left them many years ago. As much as Jace wants to look beyond his depressed home in Maryland to bigger things and bigger dreams, he struggles with self-esteem issues that are easily exploited by others. He does not want to be remembered as a statistic. But if he can’t focus, he may not have a choice.

He loses a big game when a scout is looking for him and his self-confidence drops. He needs to win not only to get to the big league, but also to prove to himself that he is better than how he sometimes feels inside. Ike obviously sees himself in Jace, and the intersection of their paths gives him a chance to think about himself.

He has had enough of the junior leagues – the way other coaches treat their children, the way the game economy is run. He begins to question his role in the game just as Jace examines himself. Ike gets a new opportunity when second league coach (Tessa Ferrer) proposes to merge their organizations. She has a benefactor, the father (Miles Mussenden) of one of her weaker players (Ozie Nzeribe), who can help maintain the team. There are many compromises, but if they can do this, it is not known where it could lead.

Anything I want could slip away

Isaiah R. Hill makes a hole in the screen.
Photo: Apple TV +

Kevin Durant’s experiences can help very great Swagger but this is entirely a Reggie Rock Bythewood show. Bythewood is a writer, producer and director with a very impressive experience. He produced an excellent film by his wife Gina Prince-Bythewood Beyond the Lights. And the two of them created Shots Fired for Fox a few years ago. (She serves as a consulting producer at Swagger. Since she directed Love and basketball sometimes, it’s good for everyone involved.)

Reggie Rock Bythewood’s earthly dramatic sensibility is portrayed in his writing and directing. He manages Swagger pilot, choreographing matches with a hyperactive eye that captures the abilities of his players and makes basketball just as exciting to watch as it is to play.

Real Baltimore

The Bythewoods project, generally speaking, was to shed light on elements of American life that are often sensationalized. Just look at how they paint the neighborhoods of Baltimore Swagger took place. He still has his problems (drugs, police brutality). But this is a place worth focusing on because the people who live there are not what the media presents them to be.

(I would recommend reading and following Brandon Soderbergh for a continuous and comprehensive view of how crime is framed in Baltimore, a city that people want to believe is frozen in its very well-covered history of corruption and urban crime.)

Bythewood wants to show Baltimore which is not on the covers, a place where good people are just trying to survive in a city that people have completely forgotten with the power and money to help it. That’s why Jace and Ike are so committed to being the best: Baltimore is abandoned and they want to raise their people with them.

Swagger like us

Swagger he gives his political points to footage of street corners or vignettes with cops, but the textures are just as common as the text. This is primarily a show about the way people talk to each other while in the game, exercising and at equally high lives leading normally. The directors of the series run all the games very well. (Bythewood stands out – he seems to have been itching film basketball games – but directors Alex Hall and Rachel Leiterman don’t give up either.)

More importantly, other things prove to be at least as compelling as basketball action. Ike’s family life, Jace’s personal demons, his teammates and their chemistry, Jace’s relationship with his friend Crystal (Kuvenzane Wallis), Phil’s (Solomon Irama) home problems… it’s all magnificently drawn and fantastically acted out. This isn’t always a show to hang out with. But when Swagger allowing himself to become one, seems unstoppable.

Baler cast

Whole Swagger The cast is as charismatic as hell, but apparently the series hasn’t handed its main story lazily into the hands of Jackson and Hill. Jackson worked consistently well as a character actor. It is a pleasure to see him become the focus here. He looks much older than his 30s. His fatigue and daily disappointments burden him so much that they become as visible as the apron he wears at his job.

He makes Ikea different in every way from his previous characters. Sometimes it seems that Jackson is so dedicated to Ike’s personal drama that you forget to watch the incredibly famous son of one of the most famous rappers of all time (which I mention only because Ike constantly ribs his young team because of their taste in hip). hop).

Hill is proving just as amazing. There is enough presence on the screen, but it is also the right thing with a basketball in hand. As great as he copes with the teenage emotions and self-awareness that Jace experiences, he’s really fantastic in the game. He chirps during these sequences, his physicality and athleticism attract your attention and never let go.

Swagger has one of the strongest debuts in any Apple TV + show this season, and I look forward to seeing where it goes next.

Look Swagger on Apple TV +

The first three episodes Swagger land on Apple TV + on October 29th. New episodes arrive every Friday.

Rated: TV-14

Look at: Apple TV +

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of a long-running series of video essays The Unloved for He wrote for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books i Nylon Magazine. He is the author Kinemaphagy: On the psychedelic classical form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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