DVD Review: Changing The Game

STUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Rel Dowdell | CAST: Sean Riggs, Dennis L.A. White, Sticky Fingaz, Mari White, Tony Todd
DVD RELEASE DATE: 8/28/2012 | PRICE: DVD $26.98
SPECS: R | 103 min. | Crime drama | 1.78:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 2.0 | Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall


Changing the Game kicks off as a Boyz N The Hood-styled urban film and slowly shifts into a surprisingly rich adult drama about filled with a healthy dose of crime, friendship and high finance.

Young buddies Darrell Barnes (Sean Riggs) and Dre (Dennis L.A. White) emerge from the mean streets of North Philadelphia and “play the game” of life to their strengths: streetwise Dre grows into drug dealer and well-schooled Darrell takes a supposedly straighter route to college and then Wall Street. Their paths continue to cross over the years, but it’s Wharton grad Darrell’s “game “that takes center stage as he learns that white-collar crime in the world of finance can be even nastier and more prone to bubble-bursting than the crime his buddy Dre practices in Philly.

Changing the Game movie scene

Sean Riggs in Changing the Game

It’s a variation on the relationship between The Wire’s Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale, two lifelong friends whose different views on crime and money proved to be their undoing. That’s not what happens in Changing the Game (no need for a spoiler alert), but it’s that friendship between the Machiavelli-quoting Dre and the intensely focused Darrell that provides a satisfying base for the film and its occasionally slippery story.

Co-written and directed by Rel Dowdell,  the independent production is nothing if not confident and ambitious. What it may lack in finesse (and budget) it makes up for with a solid story, respectable production values, good location work (all in Philly) and above-average performances by its leading men (including Sticky Fingaz and, notably, Brandon Ruckdashel as a slimy Ivy League broker).

Changing the Game is Dowdell’s second feature following 2000’s Train Ride, which I didn’t see. Based on this movie, I’d like to check out his first one and then see what he does next, which hopefully won’t take another twelve years.

Oh, I’ve gotta give a proud shout-out to Disc Dish contributor Irv Slifkin who pops up in a scene as the cheery father of one of the lovely ladies in Darrell’s life. Bravo!


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.