Nelson Mandela, in his first term as the South African President, initiates a unique venture to unite the apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
The great Chicago White Sox team of 1919 is the saddest team to ever win a pennant. The team is bitter at their penny pincher owner, Charles Comiskey, and at their own teammates. Gamblers take advantage of this opportunity to offer some players money to throw the series. (Most of the players didn't get as much as promised.) But Buck Weaver and the great Shoeless Joe Jackson turn back at the last minute and try to play their best. The Sox actually almost come back from a 3-1 deficit. Two years later, the truth breaks out and the Sox are sued on multiple counts. They are found innocent by the jury but baseball commissioner Landis has other plans. The eight players are suspended for life, and Buck Weaver, for the rest of his life, tries to clear his name. Written by
Patrick Lynn <email@example.com>
In the final scene, Joe Jackson is playing for a minor league team in New Jersey in 1925. On the outfield wall there is an ad for Harry Kurkjian confections. He was a real merchant that worked in nearby Queens NY during the '20s and '30s. See more »
Dickie Kerr tells Kid Gleason that the first ball game he ever went to was the one in which Gleason pitched a no-hitter to beat Cy Young. The real Kid Gleason never threw a no-hitter. See more »
[referring to the owners]
If Landis wants to clean up the game; he should start with those birds on the steps with him.
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John Sayles is always, always honest with his audiences, never resorting to cheap tricks or unwarranted sentiment; and this period drama about the "Black Sox" scandal of 1919 may be his finest hour. Incredibly handsome and lavish-looking for a low-budget indie, it's a meticulous re-creation of the first huge scandal in American professional sports, and the beginning of the loss of innocence in pro baseball (and American popular culture by extension). If that makes it sound a bit dry, let it be said that the characterizations are vivid, the characters multilayered, the costumes gorgeous, and the staging of the baseball games unusually convincing. (Ever notice how movie stars can't really fake pro-athlete moves? Watch John Cusack charge an outfield fly, or Charlie Sheen slide into third--they had me convinced.) In a uniformly excellent cast, David Strathairn's morally tortured star pitcher is especially impressive, as is John Mahoney's manager, alternately loving and despising his players, his eroding trust etched on his expressive face. And what a wonderful touch having Studs Terkel play a cynical sportswriter: He's the essence of Chicago style.
Some of the facts of the story are necessarily simplified or omitted to keep the movie under two hours, but there's not a moment of dishonesty or "Field of Dreams"-type goo. By the time the kid is looking Joe Jackson in the eye and pleading, "Say it ain't so," you'll probably be sniffling.
A high-water mark in the career of a great, versatile, underappreciated moviemaker.
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