Even Money **1/2
Directed by Mark Rydell
Rated R for language, violence and brief sexuality.
"Even Money" is a bit of a hard film to really judge-I know that deep down it is more melodramatic than it should be, the characters are very one dimensional, the score sucks, and despite a large and talented cast, none of the actors really know what they are doing, and do not even seem to care. And yet there was something oddly entertaining about it, even though it is a complete and utter mess. Taking its cue from the likes of Altman and P.T. Anderson, Mark Rydell has crafted a mosaic on the effects that gambling has on people. With three interconnected stories he followed the uncle of a teenage basketball played (Forest Whitaker), a struggling writer/wife/mother who is addicted to the slots (Kim Basinger) and two bookies (Jay Mohr and Grant Sullivan). And then there are the side characters-Kelsey Grammar as a crippled cop, Danny DeVito as a failed magician, and Ray Liotta are the angry husband-all of whom connect to Ivan, a mysterious mob like figure who can make or break the lives of everyone.
There is something compelling about the film, though, and I can't place my hand on what. It does entertain, even if it is a mess and has the quality of a television film. I must say something about the score, who is done so over the top that during the most serious scenes I was laughing a little inside. I could have maybe lived without the extended plot with Tim Roth's murderous assistant to the mob. I love Tim Roth, but his plot line somewhat made the film a bit unrealistic. If they wanted to make a mosaic of gambling it could have been with more realistic characters and plot. This is the weakness of "Even Money"-it does not take a human approach at the topic of gambling and tries to resort to colorful side characters, and more of a cartoonish tone. And Kelsey Grammer's, who is very good here, noir detective is misplaced and does not fit with the mixed tone the film has. "Even Money" is something to check out when it comes to a smaller screen, but certainly is not a must to watch now. This will float right by-no harm no foul.