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Overall Rating
2.17

Awesome: 2.08%
Worth A Look: 20.83%
Average: 2.08%
Pretty Bad41.67%
Total Crap: 33.33%

5 reviews, 18 user ratings


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Even Money
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by Eugene Novikov

"An insult to gambling addicts everwhere"
2 stars

Could be I'm growing soft. I spent a long time trying to engage with EVEN MONEY: far longer than it deserves, far beyond my level of interest, and far more than will be useful to anyone. I have an excuse: it's a movie about gambling addiction, for chrissakes -- it's hard to fathom how such a serious input leads to such a totally, emphatically, offensively unserious output. I guess it proves the truth of Ebert's great adage: it's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.

Even Money is about gambling addiction shittily. Rather than exploring -- or even giving a hoot about -- the effect of the disease on actual human lives, Robert Tannen's screenplay contrives a series of cable movie plots that culminate in the most ludicrous climax in memory. Of course, one retreat is to say that the film is meant to be iconic and exaggerated, not "real" -- the bookend narrations, expounding on what we are willing to put on the line to get more of what we want, have the whiff of parable, not docudrama. But that doesn't make the movie any less stupid, and in any event, to co-opt gambling addiction, which has roots far more complex and disturbing than "what we're willing to put on the line," into the service of such facile moralizing seems tasteless.

The stories are like experiments in "what's the worst that could happen" as performed by a severely limited imagination. The most compelling of the bunch involves a compulsive sports better (Forest Whitaker) whose brother (Nick Cannon) -- whom he loves to death -- happens to be a rising college basketball superstar. Yes, I said "most compelling," and if that sounds laughable, it's all downhill from there: there's a washed-up sleight-of-hand magician on the comeback trail (Danny DeVito), who teams up with a slot-addicted novelist (Kim Basinger) to win back the latter's family savings by joining forces with a big-name bookie who may or may not exist; a gambling-ring underling (Tim Roth) who may or may not be the Man Behind the Curtain but who enjoys taunting the magician with delicious steak; a pair of up-and-coming bookie brothers (Jay Mohr and Grant Sullivan) one of whom has been turned by the feds and may or may not be slowly being poisoned, and the other, having fallen in love (with Carla Gugino, natch), is thinking of quitting; and a crutches-bound police detective (an unrecognizable Kelsey Grammer) who may not (or may!) be what he seems. Magically, the plot works out such that almost everyone's fates rest on a big climactic basketball game.

Debut screenwriter Robert Tannen has seen a lot of movies, but hasn't learned very much from them. His attempts to replicate everyday conversations are sad ("I feel like an Ethiopian!" yells Kim Basinger's daughter to express her desire for dinner), his stabs at tough guy talk are worse, and his vision of family strife is the nadir -- "I want a divorce," says Ray Liotta to Basinger; "No you don't! You don't want a divorce!" responds Basinger. The screenplay's rhythms are so emphatically typical that anyone paying any sort of attention will stay several steps ahead -- gee, I wonder why a cleavage-y student could be asking Liotta's college professor to stay behind a sec. Points, I suppose, for some attempts at thematic consistency -- "nobody is perfect," people keep insisting; true that -- but Tannen never gets beyond truisms.

Obviously, I wasn't the only one taken in: the likes of Basinger, Liotta, DeVito, Roth, Whitaker and Grammer were all somehow persuaded to join the ill-fated project, as was Oscar-nominated director Mark Rydell. The subject matter is instinctively compelling, at least until you realize that for most people struggling with gambling, their problems have little to do with championship basketball games (except ones they've bet on) and people named Ivan. But the problem isn't that Even Money trivializes addiction; it's that it's so profoundly uninteresting in the process. Things are so much more offensive when they're stupid.

Reprinted from filmblather.com

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13929&reviewer=419
originally posted: 05/20/07 05:24:33
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/14/08 g Proof that just because you have big names doesn't mean the movie will be good 1 stars
3/21/08 Chuck Jones This is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. How did they get 1 stars
3/21/08 Phil C Great flick ! 4 stars
9/15/07 Monday Morning Big-name cast, penny-ante concept, humungously predictable. 2 stars
8/07/07 vasilis dont dismiss it, its a pretty underestimated film by the looks of it. 4 stars
7/03/07 William Goss Like 'Crash', only without the 'r'. 2 stars
5/30/07 Dan Loncaric B+ Film, good performances, and it was COLLEGE basketball 4 stars
5/21/07 Warren Durso I know these people exist, I read the script and it was solid! 4 stars
5/18/07 Donna Levin whatever redeeming qualities this film may have had was ruined by the insipid ending 1 stars
4/29/07 duke brodsky very interesting, Crash like film for the masses- as poker is now americas sport. i saw it 5 stars
2/19/07 C English Like Crash all the parts came together nicely 4 stars
12/26/06 Matt Dean 3rd Worst Movie I saw last year out of 68 1 stars
4/28/06 Marisa Smith Loved DeVito in this role 4 stars
3/31/06 Elisa G. Kelsey mostly totally cooks. 3 stars
3/29/06 Michael Freidman Don't bash this all you CRASH-haters 4 stars
3/28/06 George Jackson Solid and different. 4 stars
3/24/06 Gregory McIllavan Enjoyed it. Don't your usual, stupid, Hollywood flick. 4 stars
3/23/06 Frank Terrence Solid film in the vein of CRASH 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  18-May-2007 (R)
  DVD: 11-Sep-2007

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Mark Rydell

Written by
  Robert Tannen

Cast
  Kim Basinger
  Danny DeVito
  Kelsey Grammer
  Ray Liotta
  Forest Whitaker
  Carla Gugino



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