Cagers (2014) – By Josh Samford

The great thing about sports movies is that you don’t actually have to really be a fan of sports to enjoy them. Rarely is there a sports movie that feels the need to relay all of the rules for a particular game, but instead most rely on the intensity of competition to fuel most of the in-game drama. No matter how complicated the sport may be, the end result is much the same: an us vs. them mentality where the stakes are high and things usually come down to one final point. Does it sound cliché? Potentially, but it is still realistic. Sports work that way sometimes. There are an endless number of come-from-behind victories that give us the dramatic blueprint that make up the contemporary “sports movie.” Sometimes, it ultimately isn’t about a particular game, but instead it’s about everything that surrounds that game. Cagers is a short film from writer/director/actor Simon Quiroz. The young filmmaker bets it all with his film and attempts to flesh out a tried-and-true sports story by giving it an entirely unique flair due to technical achievements and the various elements that surround the script. Thankfully, his gamble pays off, and Cagers IS that special sort of sports film.

Benigno (Simon Quiroz) is a recent immigrant to the U.S. He wants to make an honorable living, but his greatest passion in life is basketball. He has recently made a small group of friends who he attempts to win money off of during basketball games, but this is ultimately not enough to put food on the table. When he hears that the local gang, a Latino gang known as the 22nd Street Inmates, are known to play basketball for money, he attempts to enter their court and set up a game. This gang, however, do not appreciate strangers stepping onto their turf.

Cagers is a short that has few weaknesses. If there are any complaints, it might be the general basis for the story (another sports movie), but everything about the movie is so tight and crafted that it seems pointless to level any complaints at it. The photography in the short is excellent. While most of it is shot in exterior settings within broad daylight, the movie manages to capture the right amount of warmth. The camerawork is kinetic, capturing the intensity of the game when it is most important, and nothing ever seems static. Keeping with the ever moving plot, Cagers keeps the audience actively involved and anticipating the action.

The standout attribute that the film has going for it would certainly be the cast assembled. Quiroz himself manages to stand out as the quiet, but incredibly brave, young man who wants to make a living on his own terms. However, the most noticeable member of the cast would certainly be Joseph T. Campos, who plays the gang leader El Loco. He is over-the-top at times, but when it is called upon, he is absolutely frightening. Campos performance gives the film a wildcard, as the audience has no idea what to expect from him after his introduction. His threats of violence seem real, and the relaxed bravado of the performance gives the character a dangerous aura.

Overall, Cagers may be just another inner city sports movie, but it delivers all the best qualities that this genre has to offer. The stakes are high during this game of basketball, and Quiroz does everything possible to ensure that his audience is on the edge of their seat. If the opportunity to see this one comes up, I would highly recommend checking it out. Hopefully we’ll be seeing much more from this cast and crew in the near future. You can read more about Cagers via the official website: http://www.cagersfilm.com