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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.5%
Worth A Look: 12.5%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad75%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 2 user ratings

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Long Gone
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by Jack Sommersby

"An Occasional Double-Play"
2 stars

Not the worst baseball movie out there, but it could've used a better writer and director in the starting roster.

William Petersen's ingratiating performance as a minor-league baseball player/coach is the best reason to get involved in the made-for-cable-television Long Gone. Coming off intense performances as the revenge-seeking Secret Service agent in William Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A. and psychologically fragile FBI agent in Michael Mann's Manhunter, Petersen obviously relishes the chance to play a laid-back character for a change, and the charm and charisma he gives off is incorrigible -- we're drawn to him and enjoy every second he's on the screen. Granted, his Cecil "Stud" Cantrell, a fun-loving second-rate talent on a second-rate team is far from original (Paul Newman's Reggie Dunlop in 1977's Slap Shot immediately comes to mind), but Petersen plays the part as if it'd never been played before. He finds unexpected corners and crannies in it, and everything he does seems fresh; there's an energy, an alertness in everything he does -- he manages to suggest a man whose brain has trouble keeping up with his spontaneity. Stud could've been a contender in the Major League, but his stint in the Marines resulted in a shrapnel-damaged leg, so his impaired ability has relegated him to the minors; Petersen's lucidity conveys Stud's sense of regret, and his tactful understadedness doesn't play it up for cheap pathos. The movie badly needs Petersen's solidity, because the teleplay, by Michael Norell, isn't particularly noteworthy. The Tampico Stogies, a team in a small Florida town, is having a disappointing season, with Stud constantly having to reassure the stingy father-and-son owners (whose main source of income is their dry-cleaning business) that they're on the brink of a better season. Entering the scene are baseball-schooled Alabama second-baseman Jamie Weeks (Dermont Mulroney) and South Panama power-hitter Joe Lewis Brown (Larry Riley), who impress Stud enough to get them contracts, though, being in state where the Klu Klux Klan is active, Stud has to convince the owners Brown is a non-English-speaking Venezuelan (he's put on the roster as Jose). The team's play does indeed improve while Stud's off-the-field life gets complicated by groupie Dixie Lee Boxx (Virginia Madsen), who demands a marriage commitment after their "thirty-day trial." In addition, Jamie falls in love with a young woman with strict Southern Baptist parents, and Joe encounters initial resistance from his Caucasian teammates.

Long Gone boasts fine period detail (the setting is 1957) and a textured atmosphere of dailiness that transport us to a distinctive time and place, and it's thankfully absent of the heavy-handed grandiosity of the Robert Redford star vehicle The Natural from three years prior. Having granted it this, however, overall it doesn't add up to anything particularly memorable and is easily twenty minutes too long. The director, Martin Davidson, isn't the most expressive storyteller -- several of the scenes lack proper shaping, and the mediocre compositions leave you hungering for something with a supple visual life. The movie is moderately watchable, but after a while you tend to notice you're expending a lot more effort trying to stay involved in it than the moviemakers have put forth in actively involving us. There's simply not enough viable material to sustain an almost-two-hour running time, and Davidson has adhered to it with an unwarranted respect. We can somewhat forgive that the baseball sequences are inadequately handled because the movie is basically a character-driven piece, but the talking-heads scenes aren't substantial enough to make up for this -- we keep waiting and waiting for something to come along and finally justify our interest. We're almost always getting the perfunctory on an episodic basis, and because the dialogue (which constantly strains for a kind of quirky authenticity) simply isn't good enough, the stale story construction is made all the more apparent. Madsen showed talent opposite Vincent Spano in Creator and Craig Sheffer in Fire With Fire, and she's so promising in her initial scenes here that we wish there were more for her to do than simplistically serve as the "love interest." She matches up well with Petersen, and when their scenes allow for it they get a real rhythm going -- these two thespians, who operate on the same energy level, clearly love their craft; we wish for the focus to stay on Stud and Dixie instead of veering off into stale subplots that, like an old baseball, show their well-worn seams. There's able backup by Henry Gibson and Teller as the team owners (blatantly patterned after Big and Little Enos of Smokey and the Bandit) along with Mulroney and Riley giving their roles as much truth as they can hold, and a not-bad grand finale whose payoff is cannily telegraphed. Unfortunately, rather than a triple or home run, Long Gone bats no more than a double.

Ron Shelton's "Bull Durham" is the one to see.

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originally posted: 04/08/13 22:42:43
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Slamdance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Slamdance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/15/14 Jerry Grillo A terrific movie based on a wonderful novel by the late, great Paul Hemphill. 5 stars
1/28/03 Mark Edwards excellent, but it's too long 4 stars
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  23-May-1987 (NR)



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