The Sixth Man

Year Released : 1997SixthManPoster
Director : Randall Miller
Cast : Marlon Mayans, Kadeem Hardison, David Paymer and Michael Michelle

After getting tired of reviewing zombie movies and found footage films, I decided to not review anything from either of those two genres for some time. Whilst I am still watching films from both, I found myself repeating myself over and over again, and the good found footage style films are very few and far between.

So instead I’ve decided to move onto a type of movie for a while and focus on four films from the mid 90s that I love, three of which I have now covered. It seems weird having reviewed so many sports films recently after my only previous venture into sports on this site has been my review for the baseball movie 61* and this in a way has been disappointing as there are a lot of pretty decent sports movies out there, the only issue is finding one that isn’t well known. Sports movies in general are few and far between, maybe not so much as some other genres, but how often do you see a movie about a sport released at the cinema? The only major one in recent years off of the top of my head is the baseball movie “Moneyball”.

This review also completes a Wayans Sports trilogy, as following from Damon’s ventures into boxing with The Great White Hype and basketball with Celtic Pride, his brother Marlon joined him with The Sixth Man. This film comes from Marlon Wayan’s pre-Scary Movie days, so is actually a rare decent performance from him, or at least that’s what I remembered from when I last saw the film in my teens (and I’m now 30)

Being British, I have little knowledge of basketball, it’s history and much of the rules. I did play it a lot in secondary school (the English equivalent of high school for my American readers) but I didn’t really know the rules. I got the ball and shot, that’s what I did. I had a fairly decent record as well, hitting around 20-25 points a game (I’m assuming that’s good). But anyway,I digress.


Antoine (Hardison) and Kenny (Wayans) Tyler are two of the hottest players in NCAA College Basketball and both are tipped for big futures in the game, especially Antoine. The brothers form a seemingly unstoppable partnership on the court but Antoine suffers a heart attack whilst performing a slam dunk and dies, leaving the team devastated, especially Kenny.

Team form suffers and the effect on Kenny extends to off the court, however, one evening after practice Kenny is visited by the ghost of Antoine. After much convincing, Antoine persuades Kenny to let him help the team get back to winning ways. It works as Antoine purposefully cheats to help the team win, but it doesn’t go unnoticed by team-mates and the media that bizarre incidents are happening during matches.

Kenny reveals to his team that Antoine has been helping them all along, and despite their initial doubts they eventually come around to the idea, although how long will they all willingly participate when they know that they aren’t winning through their own efforts and even worse, starts purposefully taking over the bodies of both the team and opponents?


So, does it round of the little flurry of 90s films positively?

No, no it doesn’t.

You know what, I’m sick of films treating the viewers like they’re idiots. I’m sick of cliche after cliche after cliche in films, especially sports films, and this film is full of them.

Let’s start with something I briefly mentioned in the Celtic Pride review, how often do you see a team in a movie down by one point with seconds to go, only to then score and win the game? Well in this film there are nine matches shown in any real length or detail, and in five of those games the team scores in the final second to win the game, and it’s almost a sixth but in the other they miss the shot completely.

I’m sorry, but no. Without looking it up, I can virtually guarantee you that a team scoring in the last second to secure a win is exceedingly rare. Obviously it happens occasionally, such as Manchester United’s win over Bayern Munich in 1999, but it is rare….and yet it happens on such a regular basis in films that you would think that not scoring in the last second would be the rarity in the real world.

To have more than half of the matches won by scoring in the last second in a film is purely farcical. It takes any real tension out of the game because you know that in the vast, vast, vast majority of cases, the team that the film is following is going to win somehow.

It’s certainly not the only cliche though. On numerous occasions throughout the film there are only mere seconds left in the game, yet they take forever to play out. For example, in one game there are 12 seconds remaining and it takes nearly 30 seconds to play out those 12 seconds, even though it’s not slow motioned at any point, and in the very next game it takes 20 seconds to play 3 seconds. We’re not idiots, we know how time works.

Then we get onto the scene where Antoine is dying on the court. He can’t breathe properly, is severely struggling to get any air in and looks like dying right there on the court, but despite not being able to get in any oxygen, he still manages to come out with full sentences to tell Kenny to stay in the game.

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But then comes the bit that annoys me the most and that is that Antoine is portrayed as a god like player that can make any team good. If you watch the film, you will quickly realise just how crap the rest of the team is and whilst you could forgive them in the first game or two for struggling to get over Antoine’s death, especially Kenny, it starts getting the point where you realise that they are just crap, every single one of them.

You begin to realise that without Antoine, they would never have been anywhere near a title winning side, and I don’t care what sport you’re in, one good player can’t carry an otherwise diabolically bad team for an entire season and turn them into near invincibles. The very fact that in one game Antoine has quite clearly helped the team cheat, and yet they still only win by one point, shows that they just aren’t very good. If you’re cheating and still not winning convincingly then there’s nothing wrong.

The film is full of such simple mistakes as well. For example, O’Grady, the short ginger one (I have to point out which one he is for reasons that I’ll go into in a minute) takes a shot from within the two point zone, and yet the team are given three points on the scoreboard. It’s just a careless mistake and the film is full of them.

Now, the reason that I had to tell you exactly who he is is because other than the brothers, none of the characters are even slightly hinted at being more than someone who plays basketball. That seems to be their entire character and they aren’t allowed to grow beyond that. Early on, when they’re in a nightclub, all they do is talk about basketball, even when chatting up women. They are ridiculously one dimensional supporting characters.

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Kenny is probably the most interesting and developed character, but even then he doesn’t really change that much and his growing romantic relationship with RC feels overwhelmingly forced. Michael Michele puts in a decent showing as RC, but she and Wayans share precisely zero chemistry and it shows.

I am seriously struggling to think of any redeeming features and I can’t, and the reason that I can’t is that I’m now an adult. I must have been in my teens when I last saw this movie and that probably explains why I had fond memories before rewatching it.

The Sixth Man is all over the place, is full of cliches, a forced love subplot and so many other things that make you think that either the directors were aiming this film at children, or they think that anyone who watches it is an idiot.

THE SIXTH MAN, Kadeem Hardison (c.), Marlon Wayans (r.), 1997. ©Buena Vista Pictures


A basketball film that seemed so enjoyable during my youth is now just one that ultimately disappoints. It’s so full of cliches, underdeveloped characters and a forced romantic subplot that it feels like something that would only entertain children.

I used to have fond memories of this film and thoroughly enjoyed it, but now I look at it’s average score of 5.6 on IMDB and can only think that it’s about 2.6 above where it should be. There are minimal redeeming features about the film and ultimately I would be surprised if anyone over the age of 13 finds this film enjoyable.

If you’re under 13, or love a film full of cliches and very loose plots, have your fill, but otherwise avoid.


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