Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1988. Orion Pictures. Screenplay by John Sayles, based on the book by Eliot Asinof. Cinematography by Robert Richardson. Produced by Sarah Pillsbury, Midge Sanford. Music by Mason Daring. Production Design by Nora Chavooshian. Costume Design by Cynthia Flynt. Film Editing by John Tintori.
John Sayles’ brilliant exposé of a very dark time in the business of baseball. Post-World War I players of the Chicago White Sox are fed up with their owner’s skinflinting on their salaries (instead of giving them a promised bonus after winning a game, they’re handed flat bottles of champagne). When the opportunity comes up to make some cash, the boys jump at it: eight members of the team agree to throw the 1919 World Series for many thousands of dollars, and the effect that this has on their camaraderie, their athleticism and their own consciences is examined with thorough detail but no lack of entertainment value. Sayles manages to make a vibrant, energetic film without sacrificing character depth or drama, a movie that is never dull for a second even for those not steeped in a love of baseball or its history. The period is achieved with excellence, and the performances are all exceptional, especially David Strathairn as the family man pitcher whose arm is starting to show wear. What possessed Sayles to put D.B. Sweeney, John Cusack and Charlie Sheen in the same movie and then expect us to tell them apart is completely beyond me, but otherwise it’s a great film for anyone willing to see the darker side of America’s favourite pastime.