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Review: ‘Killer Bees’ Tracks Working-Class Athletes in the Hamptons

A scene from “Killer Bees,” set in the Hamptons. CreditHilary McHone

Killer Bees   NYT Critic’s Pick
Directed by Ben Cummings, Orson Cummings
Documentary, Sport
1h 25m

By Jason Zinoman
July 26, 2018

Every new high school basketball documentary must contend with the long shadow of the 1994 masterpiece “Hoop Dreams.” While it’s nowhere near as ambitious, “Killer Bees” fits squarely in its tradition, engaging and humane storytelling that uses the drama of basketball to tell a deeper story about race, class, and the excitement and heartache of young lives careening toward adulthood.

Directed by Benjamin and Orson Cummings and produced by, among others, Shaquille O’Neal, the movie tracks one season in the powerhouse basketball program of the Bridgehampton Killer Bees, a predominantly African-American and working-class team in an area — the Hamptons — famous as a getaway for the spectacularly rich. In using this juxtaposition as a metaphor for growing inequality and the shrinking middle class, the filmmakers are helped considerably by the coach, Carl Johnson, who is both a charismatic character and a sharp observer of his town; his assistant Joe Zucker, whose day job is as a celebrated artist (this might explain why the art dealer Larry Gagosian is another producer of the film); and a clueless, Maserati-driving real estate agent, the perfect stand-in for the forces of gentrification.

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