'Swagger' Review: Relatable, breezy and solid, Apple TV+ series is a clutch player
'Swagger' is all about the swagger. It's a pacy, crisp, adrenaline-pumping, and attention-demanding, and supremely confident visual treat for those heavily invested in basketball. The sports drama, inspired by NBA superstar Kevin Durant’s experiences is a breezy watch. It's a stark contrast from the 'Greatness Code', it has very minor elements of 'The Way Back', and while it may not have the star power of Ben Affleck, it has a solid cast that shoulder every frame seamlessly. The sequences are choreographed to perfection, and the storyline, although predictable, is absolutely relatable if you're an athlete.
Jace Carson (Isiah Hill) is a phenom in Washington DMV. He's part Giannis Antetokounmpo with that work-in-progress musculature, he's part James Harden with that aggressive offense, he's got shades of LeBron James in him with that fade away. In short, he's the next big thing in the NBA, but he's just 14. He's built different, a poster boy for Nike if they want him to star in a commercial. The mad dribbling skills, the mind-boggling stamina, he's the future, and if that 'Swagger' led us to believe, we're sold.
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He's also a teen. He's overwhelmed by fast cars, fancy bowling alleys, and does everything that you'd expect a teen to do. His competitiveness is his biggest strength and his weakness. He wants to be number one and 'Swagger' is about his journey to stardom while walking the fine line between dreams, ambition, opportunism, and corruption.
The key characters are his coach Ike "Icon" (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and Jace's mother, Jenna (Shinelle Azoroh). The duo is his pillars of strength and the family that he knows. Jenna is a doting mother who heavily banks on Jace to be the next big thing in the NBA. After his father abandons the family, she's forced to raise Jace and his sister working two jobs in a still racial environment. More about that later though.
The ten-episode series has layers of storylines but manages not to get entangled. At times, it does feel like there's a cluttered story that could be done without, but the load is worked out evenly and keeps you hooked. 'Swagger faces stiff competition from Ava DuVernay's 'Colin in Black & White', the Netflix limited series that debuts on the same day as 'Swagger' and focuses on the high school years of activist and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
This Apple TV+ series is a winner. This call doesn't stem from the fact that there are only good things to write about the show. There are ample flaws, but all worthy of being overlooked as they all just attempts to show the larger picture. Showrunner Reggie Rock Bythewood makes sure the focus is always on Jace although the ensemble cast plays crucial roles. And when the action takes a backseat, the social justice storyline takes over. It's not hard to imagine a particular scene that plays out when a crowd chants racist tweets at a bunch of kids playing basketball.
Apple TV's sports drama is worth it. The first three episodes will be available to stream on Friday, October 29. Subsequent episodes released Fridays through December 17.