In Cold Blood‘s Anthony Edwards isn’t the only ER star trying to change his image with a grim TV movie this week. Eriq La Salle plays a character 180 degrees removed from his overachieving Dr. Peter Benton — a Harlem basketball hustler-turned-drug-addicted Vietnam amputee — in Rebound. Oh, did we mention that La Salle also directed this impressionistic portrait of playground-roundball legend Earl ”The Goat” Manigault (Don Cheadle)?
Rebound is a fine showcase for La Salle’s talents on both sides of the camera, but it’s Cheadle who steals the movie. The Picket Fences alum plays Manigault from naive high schooler, to cocky college dropout, to washed-up junkie, to clean-and-sober role model. Cheadle deserved an Oscar for his fiery, funny turn as a trigger-happy thug in 1995’s Devil in a Blue Dress, and he deserves an Emmy — at least a CableAce — for Rebound.
As for La Salle, he seems to be following the career plan of Forest Whitaker (who appears as Manigault’s mentor, a parks department employee). After making an impressive directorial debut with the HBO inner-city drama Strapped, Whitaker moved on to big-screen success with Waiting to Exhale. Judging from La Salle’s work on Rebound — he moves the camera smoothly and elicits nice performances from James Earl Jones and Clarence Williams III — he has an equally bright future. B+