EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|EIGHT MEN OUT (director/writer: John Sayles; screenwriter: from the book by Eliot Asinof; cinematographer: Robert Richardson; editor: John Tintori; music: Mason Daring; cast: John Cusack (George 'Buck' Weaver), Clifton James (Charles 'Commie' Comiskey), Michael Lerner (Arnold Rothstein), Christopher Lloyd (Bill Burns), John Mahoney (William 'Kid' Gleason), Charlie Sheen (Oscar 'Hap' Felsch), David Strathairn (Eddie Cicotte), D.B. Sweeney (Joseph 'Shoeless Joe' Jackson), Don Harvey (Charles 'Swede' Risberg), James Read (Claude 'Lefty' Williams), Perry Lang (Fred Mcmullin), Michael Rooker (Chick Gandil), Billy Maharg (Richard Edson), Christopher Lloyd (Bill Burns), Stud Terkel (Reporter, Hugh Fullerton), John Sayles (Ring Lardner), Kevin Tighe (Sullivan), Michael Mantell (Abe Attell), Jace Alexander (Dickie Kerr), Bill Irwin (Eddie Collins), Gordon Clapp (Ray Schalk), Eliot Asinof (Heyden), Maggie Renzi (Rose Cicotte), John Anderson (Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Sarah Pillsbury/Midge Sanford; Orion Home Video; 1988)|
|"Does a fine job in getting
to the details of the baseball scandal."
by Dennis Schwartz
Sayles ("Lianna"/"City of Hope"/"Men With Guns") is
writer-director of this gloomy period sports drama
morality tale of the infamous fixing of the 1919 World
Series between the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati
Reds, as gamblers, led by the notorious Arnold
Rothstein (Michael Lerner), got to eight White Sox
players to throw the Series. It became known as the
Black Sox Scandal, and was exposed by sports writers
Ring Lardner (John Sayles) and Studs Terkel (Hugh
It led to the banning from baseball of the guilty
parties and the appointing of the first baseball
Kenesaw Mountain Landis (John Anderson), to clean-up the game for
the public's satisfaction. Sayles
bases it on the 1983 best-seller by Eliot Asinof.
The film does a fine job in
getting to the details of the baseball scandal and
focusing on all the characters involved and why they
did it, but it gets too bogged down in details and
loses any emotional impact with too many characters
having a say about the incident to tell one from the
other. The pic tells how the players were motivated to
dump the games because of their hatred for their
loud-mouth penny-pinching owner Charles Comiskey
(Clifton James). The most interesting ballplayer portrayed was
aging ace pitcher Eddie Cicotte (David Strathairn), a
family man who felt slighted by the owner refusing him
a promised $10,000 bonus for a thirty win season after
benching him for two weeks after he won 29 games so he
wouldn't get the bonus. A pissed Cicotte gets roped
into joining the fix by disgruntled teammate Chick
Gandil (Michael Rooker), and figures he could use the
dough to send his daughters to college. The other
player of interest was Buck Weaver (John Cusack), the
third baseman who never received bribe money, hit over
300 for the series and maintained his innocence
throughout the trial but was implicated in the fix
with the others by the new baseball commissioner.
Super-star ballplayer 'Shoeless Joe' Jackson (D.B. Sweeney), an illiterate, suffered
the most from the lifetime ban by baseball. He's
recalled as the one a kid fan shouted out to "Say it ain't so, Joe," and
is almost a forgotten baseball figure today though in
his time he was compared to the great Babe Ruth and Ty
Cobb. The other dishonest players from what might have
been baseball's greatest team ever included 'Hap' Felsch (Charlie Sheen), 'Swede' Risberg (Don Harvey), 'Lefty' Williams (James
Read) and Fred
Lang). It also features the honest teammates such as Eddie Collins (Bill Irwin), Ray Schalk (Gordon Clapp) and Dickie Kerr (Jace Alexander).
It's an absorbing sports pic with fine performances by its ensemble cast despite its storytelling flaws, only it could have been much better if it was more focused and better edited. It serves as an allegory for America's loss of innocence over baseball hero worship and how the uneducated poor class (the ballplayers) are taken advantage of by the rich and powerful (the ball-club owners and gamblers).
REVIEWED ON 4/17/2013 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ