‘The Redeem Team’ Review: Avenging Olympians make a comeback

“The Redeem Team” knows how to get the audience’s attention early.

The Netflix documentary opens on two basketball players giving an interview. Both are extremely well known public faces and Hall of Fame resumes, with one particular face cutting to the heart of the matter. The two players discuss plans to avenge a few unflattering losses in the Olympics, a stage that USA Basketball has *mostly* dominated for the past few decades. When you have Lebron James and Kobe Bryant leading the charge with the likes of Chris Paul and Dwight Howard covering the court as well, there’s always a chance to win. But the documentary puts glue on your eyes early on with the late Lakers star.

Opening on Bryant, who tragically died in a plane accident two years ago, is the emotional pact that “The Redeem Team” makes with the audience. Sports can be emotional vessels of joy and torment, equally so at times. Bryant’s impact on the world is immense; his impact on the world of basketball is unending. “The Last Dance,” another Netflix production about the Chicago Bulls’ dynamic play in the 90s, included footage of Bryant that immediately got your attention.

Once the sports fan is hooked into “The Redeem Team,” the rest of the documentary provides the kettle corn aspects of a true sports story. The rise of the dominant USA basketball team before the disappointing losses in 2004 and 2006. The 2008 team, featured here in Jon Weinbach’s film, took the charge of the redemption tour to set a new precedent for the country’s team. In other words, there was no way they were going to lose.

Three highlights:

~Kobe Bryant plowing through then teammate Pau Gasol during the first game to set the tone. In one scene or moment in his career, this explained the unbeatable drive of the late star. He was willing to do anything to set the tone.

~Any interview minutes with Doug Collins, one of my favorite basketball minds of all time. He had a close bond with the 2008 team, being a former US basketball star who saw his Olympic team suffer one of the most heartbreaking losses. Collins and his fellow American players made what looked like a buzzer beating shot. However, a few seconds were put on the clock on Russia, who inbounded perfectly to score two points to steal victory. Collins talked to the 2008 team before the first game, and he speaks several times in the documentary, including a tearful moment late where he talks about Bryant. The emotional moments that resonate are the ones you don’t see coming.

~The final game against Spain plays out like a Cinderella sports movie tale. USA and Spain battled for four quarters, and not a second less. The lead changes were fast and furious, with Lebron and Kobe facing foul trouble early. If you don’t cheat and look up the final score, the last 10 minutes of the documentary will enthrall you. Pure basketball fans will eat it up, but the casual ones can soak it in too. The cinematic touch takes care of that.

I don’t watch regular season basketball, but any playoff game or Olympic game with stakes and a close score gets my attention. That’s where real boss talents show up. Bryant was at the head of that charge for the 2008 team. If the doc has a star, he’s it. Easy choice if you ask me.

“The Redeem Team” is currently streaming on Netflix, the burgeoning new home for sports docs.

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