Review Date: October 06, 2005
Director: D.J. Caruso
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Producers: Jay Cohen, David Robinson, James Robinson
Al Pacino as Walter
Matthew McConaughey as Brandon
Rene Russo as Toni
An ex-football player with a knack for picking winning teams gets a phone call from a rich guy in New York who runs a “sports services” company, and is asked to join his team in making predictions for gamblers. The wide-eyed pup agrees and continues his hot streak as he beds hookers in the big city. That is until…well, until his hot streak ends and people start getting pissed. That’s right…pissed! And you wouldn’t want to see Al Pacino when he gets pissed. Then again…maybe you would.
This is not a good movie. It’s a decent yarn, but we’ve seen it all before and done much better and more interesting at that. In other words, been there…done that. So why am I still sorta recommending that you check it out on video/DVD if you feel like it? Well, first of all, you’ll surely be able to stand the 2-hour runtime a little better in your home (half an hour of which was likely not required), and also, I really like Al Pacino, I like Matthew McConaughey, I’ve always appreciated a little Jeremy Piven in my films and overall, I’ve always been a fan of the concept of the “country bumpkin” comin’ to the “big city” to be tutored by the “hot shot” with (seemingly) everything you’d ever want from life…and more! And yeah, I also like sports, so the whole “sports gambling” angle was interesting enough, although oddly enough, not really delved into all that much (we see and hear people talking about it a lot, but we don’t really get into its back-end stuff). All that said, the film begins with all of the standard mechanisms for a film of its type (THE FIRM, WALL STREET, DEVIL’S ADVOCATE), with every step in its 1-2-3 puzzle outlined for even the dumbasses talking on their cell phones in the audience to understand. We see it all unraveling on screen and we watch, laugh a little here, smile a little there, and wonder why it is that Rene Russo doesn’t look all that great anymore? (and is it me, or has her acting also dropped a few notches?). It’s to note that her husband wrote the film’s screenplay. Natch.
Pacino, despite being a presence just for the fact of “being Pacino”, also does okay, but doesn’t bring his entire shouting repertoire with him here, giving us only small hints of the nut that he can be when he wants to be, despite delivering many small humorous one-liners, which I wasn’t expecting from him. Halfway through this movie, I couldn’t believe how many laughs it was receiving. McConaughey also plays his part decently (taking his shirt off, as per contractual obligations I’m sure…nice pecs, dude!), but I think the film’s ultimate problem is its screenplay which simply scratches the surface of this very intriguing profession (and that’s despite being “inspired by a true story”?) and never really provides us with too much insight into any of the characters. So was I entertained overall? Meh, a little bit, I guess. That said, I can certainly see how someone who doesn’t care about the film’s subject matter or its actors, might get bored and fast! I hung in there and appreciated the film’s focus on Pacino’s character in the end (despite it not really gelling with the rest of the film), but was ultimately not really surprised or pulled into the plot or its characters. It’s all “surface” stuff here, folks. Window-dressing with surprisingly little style from THE SALTON SEA director D.J. Caruso. The great Armand Assante is also wasted in a lame cameo. Do yourself a favor and rent WALL STREET, CHANGING LANES or JERRY MAGUIRE instead. Greater films with a whole lot more to say.
(c) 2015 Berge Garabedian