Since being picked up by Miramax, The Heart of the Game has become a big, fat juggernaut modeled after Hoop Dreams and narrated by Ludacris—but it began as a scrappy, no-budget local movie about the girls' basketball team at Roosevelt High School. The big games are all raucous intra-city blowouts against Garfield. There's plenty of grainy video footage courtesy of KOMO TV. It's impossible to approach the movie with anything resembling objectivity—and that's what makes it such gripping fun.

The story picks up when Bill Resler, a University of Washington tax professor (prone to droopy sweatpants and other classically Seattle sartorial choices), volunteers to coach at Roosevelt and immediately gets to work cranking the team's dynamics to fit his idiosyncratic vision. He dismantles their offense. He bulks up the defense (cue character-building conditioning montage). He pounds lockers with evident glee, getting the girls riled up with predator metaphors both fierce and dorky. "Devour the moose!" he yells. "Sink your teeth in their necks!" The girls scream back: "Draw blood!"

Over the course of seven years, director Ward Serrill tracks multiple stories, from a hyperactive girl in the thrall of a controlling private coach to Darnellia Russell, a wisp of a basketball phenom from Meany Middle School. One of the few black players on the North Seattle team, Russell has the defiant, retreating charisma of a certain kind of classical film star, and when she gets wrapped up in a transparently sexist bureaucratic struggle, the dispiriting facts of her case lend what could have been a merely pulse-quickening narrative a shot of icy purpose. You'll want to draw blood, too.