Documentaries about Chicago kids and basketball invariably evoke the great “Hoop Dreams,” but the fleet, affecting “Shot in the Dark” from Dustin Nakao Haider brings its own flair and insight into its depiction of a talented young athlete in trying circumstances.
Tyquone Greer is a gifted junior at Orr Academy, the star player on a Spartans team with a serious chance at giving the school its first Final Four appearance for a state championship. But bloodshed has touched so many lives in Tyquone’s West Side neighborhood — friends killed, his coach, Lou Adams, a gunshot wound survivor — that he hopes his hoops prowess will eventually be a ticket out.
Though “Shot” could have coasted on the typical season-long arc of a striving team, Haider wisely teases out the complicating factors that add tragic shading to lives of promise: the fact that the hotly hyped Tyquone enters his senior year living with less-than-upstanding friends (his mother having moved away to find work); the gun possession sentence that sends another player to jail, when maybe a weapon made him feel safe in a rough area; and the medically dangerous stress levels that Coach Lou endures over not only scoreboard points but also his players’ off-court welfare.
“Shot in the Dark” is a sobering reminder that places like Chicago are more than sensationalistic national headlines about crime and sports: they’re where kids struggle every day to balance their dreams with the obstacle course of their surroundings.
‘Shot in the Dark’
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills