It’s not a wide-eyed surprise why so many proven thespians would sign on to this. I’m sure director Mark Rydell pitched it to them as “CRASH…but with gambling instead of racism! Oscars for everybody!” However, the only similarity between that movie (which I admittedly wasn’t a fan of) and EVEN MONEY is a mosaic narrative structure and heavy handed bookend narration. The rest of the film is just a forgettable bore that tries to teach you a message while forgetting that it’s supposed to entertain you as well.
Where EVEN MONEY goes horribly wrong is that not one of its stories turns out to be remotely interesting. A mother (Basinger) who gambled away her family’s savings, a debt-ridden plumber (Whitaker) whose life is riding on his basketball star brother (Nick Cannon) fixing a college championship, a murder investigation led by a handicapped detective (Kelsey Grammer, with a random prosthetic nose), an elusive crime boss (Roth) at the heart of it all—these threads look good on paper with real dramatic potential, but they’re so poorly executed that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t done on purpose. Example: Basinger's story takes a bizarre, worthless turn when she meets a struggling magician (DeVito) and becomes his assistant. Seriously?!
Whittaker admirably acts his ass off, but everyone else, including the script, is obviously on autopilot. (Tim Roth looks like he’d rather be in a PLANET OF THE APES sequel remake.) And with great exchanges of dialogue like, Bookie: "I give them dreams!" Girlfriend: "No, you take their dreams away...", it was the first time I actually yearned for anything Paul Haggis wrote.
Despite the acting pedigree on the cover, this movie is just a non-entertaining waste of time.
Extra Tidbit: Rydell also directed ON GOLDEN POND.