Pete Bell (Nick Nolte) is a basketball coach at a college. Instantly, we see Pete in action, coaching his team through a game. The pressure is obvious, and if Pete’s team continues to get defeated, they will lose the entire season. His lousy temper and yelling at the refs on the sidelines during the game gets him escorted out of the arena. Adding to the pressure, Pete’s troubled past involving an alleged incident resurfaces with reporters. Pete is losing his touch.
With another game lost, Pete is desperate and decides the key is recruiting a few new players who can stand out from the rest of the team and hopefully lead them to victory. Pete travels far to successfully find players who excel in a way he could only ever dream of. However, while finding players might be the answer to his prayers, keeping them onboard by only offering them a college scholarship might not be enough. Out of desperation and determination, Pete goes down a dark path he never imagined himself taking and arranges secret payments by boosters, which is highly against the rules and the sport. Pete felt there was no choice and that this was the only way to take himself and his team to a winning victory.
Blue Chips is best described as a drama film. It’s a classic concept of how far a man will go to obtain success, and the many issues that come with it, such as guilt, pressure, and frustration. Actor Nick Nolte is no stranger to featuring in sports films (e.g. North Dallas Forty). Playing a basketball coach here, Nick Nolte brings the role to life and feels extremely convincing. Despite making poor and bold choices, the character is still likeable. Audiences cannot help but be curious to see how the film ends and if Nolte’s character is successful at winning.
The pacing could be faster, and film buffs who have no general interest in sports may also feel the film drag during a particular moment. However, the film successfully built towards a substantial payoff, and the third act and the final moments are very satisfying and rewarding. The film is most exciting when we see Pete in the world of basketball, trying to keep multiple dramas and extreme pressure under control. Certain subplots, including Pete trying to rekindle a romance with his ex-wife, didn’t feel necessary or offer a crucial investment for the audiences.
Overall, Nick Nolte is no stranger to sports films, and once again, the leading actor excels in this kind of role. Here, he’s convincing, passionate and believable as a basketball coach. While sporting films are generally not my kind of entertainment, by the end of the film, I was fond of Blue Chips. It’s a classic old tale of how far a person will go to obtain victory while dealing with guilt and pressure. Pacing may seem slow for some who dislike sport-related topics, and some subplots also seem unnecessary to the main outline. Thankfully, investing in finishing the film leads to a rich and unpredictable reward.