Even Money (I) (2006)
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
At its best, this film is a bad TV movie. It is one of only 3 films I have even walked out of. I will be surprised if it ever reaches the big screen or even DVD release.
The script is unbelievable, the acting bad, the plot rubbish and to top it all off Kesley Grammar has a prosthetic nose and chin - and done really badly!! Why?? Probably so you don't just see him as Fraser Crane? The cast list is very impressive (in fact the reason I went to see it) but no one gets the chance to shine as the script is so bad.
Avoid at all costs
Everybody seems to be sleepwalking it, borrowing character elements from their previous films.
Tim Roth plays a vicious gangster. Oooh original. Danny De Vito a failed magician who dreams of the bigtime. Yawn. Kim Basinger a mother with gambling problems, whittling away the family savings. Done how many times before in TV movies? Oh and Forest Whitaker has to ask his basketball prodigy brother to throw games so he can cancel his debt with the loan sharks, wow that's novel.
And then we have Kelsey Grammar with a plastic nose and face to match, that distracted me so much from his character, every time he appeared I kept thinking what's Kelsey Grammar doing with the dodgy nose? I forgot who he was meant to be.
People are comparing this with Crash - why? Different director and very poor writer, and a plot that isn't anywhere near as intertwined as people think.
A very simple, unoriginal film, with NOTHING to commend it. Avoid.
Kelsey Grammar did such a good job he for sure will be nominated for many supporting actor awards if this film does see the light of day...in fact I would bet this movie would too....Kim Basinger was the low point in the movie to me...but that may just be because I don't like her...but the rest of the cast was amazing. Tim Roth did a fantastic job especially with the strange awkward body positions he would stand in...just made him seem so creepy...
anyway...great film...if you get a chance see it..
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!
Yes, we all want more, but most are not willing to make the commitment necessary to get it, and some cannot live with the consequences of failure. Who was it that said, "If you put all you own on one roll of the dice, and lose, and start over, you will be a man." That's why so many people stay married when they shouldn't - they can't face starting over.
This film had more life lessons that you can imagine and some damn fine actors to teach and entertain us.
Kim Basinger was magnificent as a struggling writer who falls into a gambling addiction. She really gets pathetic as she falls deeper in debt. Danny DeVito was also great as someone who life passed by and was now picking up crumbs. When faced with total loss, he took the coward's way out. Forest Whitaker gave an excellent performance as someone living on his brother's (Nick Cannon) ability. Tim Roth as Victor, the criminal, was dead on. I also enjoyed Ray Liotta and Carla Gugino, and thought Carson Brown was amazing.
Funniest Line: "Teenagers...they are God's way of punishing us for having sex."
There are some incredible performances by an outstanding cast (some will completely surprise you! I mean, who would expect Kelsey Grammar doing a great job in the same movie as Danny DeVito and Forest Whitaker?) It's a really tight script with three separate story lines - it moves well, you get caught up in the excellent characters, and there's never a dull moment.
I could do without the title, but besides that this movie is a winner.
(This was done by the same production company put out Crash, which just won a 'Best Picture' Oscar - and I think they've got another winner here.)
I can tell you that it was a fantastic script. Highly ambitious.
The reason it is not as good a movie as the screenplay is due to the producer and the director.
It's a shame because it should have been a fantastic movie.
Trust me when I say that all the stars got attached because of the script. None of them got paid near what they usually make. (The producer is notoriously cheap.)
There are some wonderful moments which remain, but when I watched it, I just wanted to get back in the business and remake it as it should have been made the first time!
A lot of things need to come together to make a great film.
I should say that I didn't find this movie to be as good as the aforementioned intertwined-story films, as the aforementioned ones dealt more with political issues. But I thought that it was worth seeing as a look at the underbelly of life in general (is that a lame description?). And an ugly look at things it certainly is. Victor is one guy whom you hope that you never have to meet, but it's still possible to admire him somewhat. At times, every one of the characters made my skin crawl just a little bit.
All in all, an OK movie. Also starring Ray Liotta as Kim Basinger's husband, Kelsey Grammar as a detective, and director Rydell at the end.
PS: Mark Rydell also directed Bette Midler's movies "The Rose" and "For the Boys".
Happy to hire this DVD based on the talent displayed on the front cover. Some good scenes especially where DDaVito is concerned.
This did not deliver the goods
Would not recommend. This gets a "6", and feel generous with that.
It's about gambling, as a pure idea maybe. The has-been magician gambles with his life savings, to lose and die. The basketball player's older brother gambles with his brother then his own life to lose and die. The henchman gambles with his life to lose and die. And the lost writer gambles with her and her husband's life savings to lose and not die. As you see it's dark and disappointing. And while there is somehow a happy ending, meanings about love and sacrifice, there are also some questions to be asked : Was that henchman suppressed homosexual or just a lonely person in desperate need for a friend ? What about the friend's story? How he works out his relationship with his girlfriend or revenges on the killer of his companion ? (he only was about to hit the girlfriend as an ultimate answer !).
The worst thing is when the character of that crippled dusty detective (Kelsey Grammar in one heck of a NOSE!), gives a voice-over speech as a finale, while saying forced aphorisms like "The human needs more..", and so. Well, who is that character in the first place ?!, and why does he – suddenly and oddly – conclude the movie ?! And it isn't enough without the appearance of the crime lord Ivan (played by Mark Rydell, the director himself) as the glossy god of that filthy world and everything everybody dreams of (?!). So is it some reading to our world as evil? Is it a tragedy of fools? Is it a satire against the human greed? Or is it just another melodrama where the writer kills nearly everybody then preoccupies himself with extracting philosophical lessons at the end? In any case, that ending is nothing but more disappointment !
I can't believe how bad the level of directing is. Rydell didn't do anything. The case is hellishly TV-ish (dead is the word). Save the editing, which – thank god – made it coherent and no boring, there is absolutely no second to call clever or smart. It's all about actors chatter in narrow cadres with great tepidity. So eventually while the movie provides some dramatic stories for some actors, hoping to be another Magnolia, or even Crash, it ends up as so poor and uneven.
Kim Basinger has so limited capacities, some other actresses could have shined in her role. Forest Whitaker is good, but in something lesser than him. Kelsey Grammar committed a crime by accepting the worst written role in history. And Danny DeVito does it with no particularity whatsoever; no wonder since that have-not situation did strike utterly, what I wonder about is his involving in producing this. The only merit it has is its witness that Jay Mohr can do drama effectively away from his much known stiff comedy.
Making any movie is a gamble. But this movie's makers gambled good names in a losing game. So with another writer or – sure – director, (Even Money) could have been something to watch, love and respect. Because I regretted those 113 minutes of artless time and alleged wisdom.
Lined up with a commendable list of actors, Even Money sets out to prove something from the start. Based around a theme of gambling addiction and its consequences, Even Money definitely delivers where it matters. Everyone plays their part effortlessly but some obviously stand out more than others. After disappearing into the world of direction, Danny Devito reappears as a failed magician still holding onto his dream. His character offers moments of comic relief and utter charm. Tim Roth is impeccable as Victor, the second-hand man to mysterious Ivan. But it is that of Forest Whitaker who absolutely shines once again in this film, showing that there is no role he cannot hold.
While the acting for the most part is truly fierce, and the mood is alive with all the happenings of a gritty urban underworld, Even Money feels like it tries just a bit too hard, or possibly, not enough, in making the character's stories interweave and you can see it a mile away. But even with that, it is much more about the emotions portrayed through those lasts scenes and the impact they have. Even Money is a dramatic and powerful attempt at a new Crash and achieves a definite amount of success.
Hamish Kearvell A.K.A Screaming Japan Productions - www.myspace.com/screamingjapanproductions
The scenes involving Danny DeVito, Kim Basinger & Ray Liotta are the best, Forrest Whittaker & Nick Cannon scenes are almost as good, I could have had mess MUCH less of the ones with Jay Mohr & Tim Roth & Kelsey Grammar, Not they were bad, just not as interesting.
Mark Rydel directed with his usual Flair, & production values was quite good, The film runs 113 LONG minutes, it could have been shorter.
This film is another example of having a very short release in only a handful of theatres.
Ratings **1.2 (out of 4)78 points (out of 1oo) 7 (out of 10)