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"Even Money" is an ensemble drama that aims to be the Traffic or
Syriana of gambling, but comes off closer to Crasha trite amalgam of
scenes we've seen many, many times before. The fact that you've heard
so little about a film with such an impressive cast (Kim Basinger, Ray
Liotta, Danny DeVito, Tim Roth, Kelsey Grammar, Nick Cannon, Jay Mohr,
Carla Gugino, Forest Whitaker) should tell you something; indeed, the
scuttlebutt on the ol' World Wide Internets is that the film was headed
straight to DVD until Whitaker picked up the Oscar.
The cast is mostly good, but there's only so much that they can do with this material. Basinger and Liotta are especially hard up, stranded in a story thread that is older than the hills; poor Carla Gugino is stuck playing the same scene (by my count) three times straight, which is a criminal misuse of an actress as intelligent and sexy as she. Tim Roth has some nice moments as an especially snarky bad guy, though this viewer wondered if he would really show up at the college basketball game that provides the film's climax (with a resolution that can be clearly seen the moment the story turn is introduced). Kelsey Grammar (nearly unrecognizable) appears, at the film's beginning, to be doing an interesting piece of character acting as a cop, but he then disappears for over an hour, which makes his character's big final scene somewhat less than compelling.
"Even Money" is a mess, an attempt to manufacture a prestige picture by throwing many talented actors at a script whose most complex insight appears to be "gambling is bad". We should expect as much from producer Bob Yari, who gave us the aforementioned "Crash" ("racism is bad"). Director Mark Rydell has helmed a couple of successful films ("On Golden Pond", "The Cowboys") and some interesting failures ("Intersection", "The Rose"), but when he pops up briefly as a powerful figure at the end of "Even Money", all I could think of was his similar acting role in Altman's "The Long Goodbye", and how much I'd rather be watching that movie than this one.
This new film has a superb cast, with potential award winning
performances from Danny DeVito, Kim Basinger and -- particularly --
Tense, tight script that keeps you guessing 'til the very end. A new writer, and I'd love to see other stuff he's written.
If you're looking for a typical light, frothy Hollywood film with a happy ending, look elsewhere: 'Even Money' gives you a strong dose of real life -- as several lives unwind because of addictive gambling.
The same producer took a chance on "Crash" -- this film, in my opinion, is definitely in the same league.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I never write comments about movies but I have to on this one. This, unfortunately, was one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I just got out of the theater and I feel a little bad that I'm writing this. It's here at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin and it seemed some other people liked it. The acting was atrocious and the plot was really weak. I guess I don't want to get banned so here's a minor SPOILER ALERT: It's a gambling movie but the casino chips I could buy for $.05 each at Walgreens. There was a point shaving story line that was laughable. Apparently no one who knows anything at all about gambling helped out on this film. Basinger's character pulls a complete 180 three different times in the film. It's completely unbelievable. This felt like a straight to DVD film.
Wow. I must disagree with the guy who hated the movie. Don't know what
movie he was watching, but I was at the screening Sunday night and the
film was well received and rightly so.
It's an intelligent, character driven movie. Great performances. They don't make many films like this anymore. I actually had issues with CRASH (the cartoonish depiction of race issues of LA, the coincidences). EVEN MONEY is a better film.
One issue: I had no idea in which city the movie took place.
Other than that, I highly recommend this film for those of you who miss the great character driven films of the 70's.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
EVEN MONEY (2007) ** Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Ray Liotta, Forest
Whitaker, Tim Roth, Jay Mohr, Kelsey Grammar, Nick Cannon, Carla
Gugino, Grant Sullivan,Carson Brown, Cassandra Hepburn (Dir: Mark
Double or Nothing: Big Gamble on Fine Cast in Otherwise Craps Film
Gambling is an addiction that, like drug abuse or alcoholism, affects not only the one perpetuating the disease but also those around them including their loved ones. In this melodramatic attempt at showing the ills of the so-called gambling lifestyle (an oxymoron come to think of it) then the odds are against the viewer in this hodgepodge of dramatic vignettes.
Intertwined throughout this CRASH-like narrative are Carol Carver (Basinger, acting up a storm here), a novelist struggling to find her second novel but fritters her afternoons away in a local casino overwhelmed with guilt at having her family's life savings nearly completely lost at her bad luck; Walter (De Vito, one of the film's producers to boot), a down-and-out slight-of-hand magician who thinks he can get back in the lime-light and takes Carol under his wing in helping her get back her lost monies ; Clyde Snow (Whitaker, equally giving a run for his money acting up to a full-bodied sweat, a hard-working plumber who wagers too high on his younger brother Godfrey (Cannon), a skilled high school basketball player with dreams of the NBA in his brilliant future; Augie and Murph (Mohr and Sullivan, respectively), a pair of small-time bookies who take their anger out on the welchers with quick brutal beatings; and Victor (Roth hamming it up to the hilt) as an oily big-time bookie who may be guilty in a series of murders of his competition.
Also on hand are Liotta as Basinger's English lit teaching husband whose patience is growing weary thinking his wife is having an affair and their tween daughter Claudia (Brown) rebelling with her budding sexuality; Veronica (Gugino), a doctor and girlfriend to Murph who isn't aware (at first) of her beloved's violent tendencies; and Detective Brunner (Grammer in some unwisely recommended facial make-up prostheses), investigating the string of murders and the lure of a mysterious gangster/red herring named Ivan.
The scattershot screenplay by newcomer Robert Tannen is all over the place and while it gets the duh point of gambling is bad for you the flat direction by vet Rydell (ON GOLDEN POND) leaves his actors grasping for air like fish out of water. The odds for the viewer to be entertained are decidedly craps.
Despite its decidedly un-ambitious nature, "Even Money" is a modern
film noir melodrama with more story lines and characters than Robert
Altman's "Nashville." Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Ray Liotta, Kelsey
Grammar, Forest Whitaker, Grant Sullivan, Jay Mohr, and Carla Gugino
all play individuals whose only real connection is that they are in
some way or another touched by the evils of gambling.
Robert Tannen's overstuffed screenplay wanders all over the map, forcing the actors to spend most of their time just trying to keep up with all the narrative permutations. The most ludicrous subplot features DeVito as a washed-up magician who contemplates a professional comeback by teaming up with the best-selling author and compulsive gambler played by Basinger. Individually, any of the various plot strands might have made for an interesting movie, but taken together, they just keep getting in each others' way.
Veteran filmmaker Mark Rydell has not only helmed the piece but appears in a crucial cameo role late in the film. Sad to say, he doesn't make much of an impact in either capacity.
And I thought "Crash" was a pretentious "look at me!!" slab of moralizing garbage...This follows in the same stench that "Crash" left behind. I picked it because of some of the cast...Whitaker, Roth,...I thought there had to be something in there...no way. Ham-fisted and insipid. I come from a family with a gambling addict and this made me long for the real thing...as horrible as it is. It's a morality play for people who think it's a Hollie Hobbie world out here. There is nothing remotely heart-felt or realistic in the "film" and the characters are the worst of stereotypes and clichés. Some of the people involved should have known better...but when the buck calls, everybody comes running. Stick with an "after school special." It might have more weight.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Cleverly written with a splash of suspense. Don't even forget about a dark side. People always want more than they have; more money, more time, more love...more life. A group of individual's lives are connected through an addiction to gambling. Kim Basinger is a perplexed writer that has lost almost all of her family's savings. Her husband(Ray Liotta)misses her and her daughter(Carson Brown)no longer has a college fund. Forest Whitaker needs his NBA bound nephew Nick Cannon to shave points in basketball games to win money. Danny DeVito is a washed-up magician needing money to restart a career. Jay Mohr is a volatile bookie, who is ruthless in collecting his money. Kelsey Grammar is a detective investigating the killing of two bookies. Atmosphere is moody and the pace pulsing. Also in the cast: Tim Roth, Carla Gugino and Grant Sullivan.
The comparisons to "Babel" and "Fast Food Nation" are way off the mark.
"Even Money" is a film noir with revenge at its center, in gambling win
or lose there is a payday and in this movie all the debts are paid, and
there is potential for two couples to emerge from their morass. This is
a good film, directed by a pro, Mark Rydell, who has even has a cameo
role in which some of the irony and mystery is explained.
This is a sleazy movie -- to paraphrase Michael Douglas in "Wall Street," sleaze is good, and tips its hat to Orson Welles in one of my favorite films, "Touch of Evil." Yes, it is about addiction and much of the extraordinary cast (Kim Basinger, Kelsey Grammar, Danny Devito, Forest Whitaker, Ray Liotto and Tim Roth among them) play it carefully, straddling the line, without becoming camp or going over the top. High marks to the director for this.
If you like your cynicism straight and don't turn your head at a little cinematic violence this is a movie you will enjoy. Its well worth taking a flier on.
Following the lives of three individuals centered around an addiction
from which they find no escape. The only thing it gets them is DEEPER!
Basinger plays a housewife who hides her gambling addiction from her
family, even if it means they think she's having an affair. Whitaker
plays the older brother of a college basketball student on the verge of
making it big time, only to run the risk of being brought down for
shaving points. DeVito is a small time magician with a bit of a
gambling problem, himself, while Grammar plays a cop trying to find the
killer of a bookie and finds himself on the trail of another bookie
who's trying to take over the dead man's action.
This film is good! Really! I don't know what else to say about it. The characterizations were right on and the message is there: what a world you live in that will feed you what your disease tells you that you need! It affects all areas of your life: your sanity, your financial situations, your loved ones, your job, and, eventually, if you let it, your life. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bottom-feeders out there who's main reason for living is to give you that "sugar," only to take it away when the time is right (so to speak).
I'm not sure if the director and/or the writer were speaking from personal experience, but, speaking as one with his own addiction demons, he/they weren't very far off the mark! 7 out of 10 stars!
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