Not much suspense here. Reclusive, burned-out, once-acclaimed writer bumps into annoying ghetto kid and morphs into better man as a result, his implicit bias overturned by a deepening friendship with a fellow outcast. In this case, the would-be Thomas Pynchon-JD Salinger recluse is William Forrester (Sean Connery), an often-unsavory wise man.
A dare and fast-talk about a BMW lead Forrester to “meet” Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown), an archetypical “gifted” black student struggling to prove he has more to offer than a jump shot. Talented youth and recluse form a bond, and director Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting,” “Milk”) takes the cliché from there.
Turns out Jamal’s writing teacher (F. Murray Abraham) is an old rival of Forrester, as well as an expert on his work. Meanwhile, Jamal is busy coaxing Forrester to Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium, breaking down barriers. No rocket science is needed to anticipate the climax — Forrester standing up for Jamal. Sure, Connery is a treat, grumpy and downbeat. But every rib of the story’s structure is affected and prepackaged.