(Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Kelsey Grammer, et al / DVD / R / 2007 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: Forest Whitaker, Kim Basinger, Danny Devito, Kelsey Grammer and Ray Liotta star in director Mark Rydell's ensemble addiction drama detailing the manner in which gambling and drugs affect a variety of people's lives during the weeks leading up to a championship college basketball game.
DVD Verdict: This movie may have an impressive cast, but sadly, their talents have been wasted on a lacklustre script, and an uneven plot. The underlying theme in this movie is about gambling addiction, and how it affects three lives in particular. There is the struggling writer [Kim Basinger] who seeks refuge from her writer's block by indulging in compulsive gambling at the slot machines, plowing through the family savings along the way, and alienating her supportive [but clueless] husband [Ray Liotta] and her thirteen year old daughter. Then there is the down-on-his luck plumber [Forest Whitaker] who is so deeply in debt to the bookies that he compels his younger brother to throw college games in order to repay his debts. Lastly, there is the Amazing Abraham [Danny De Vito], a has-been magician trying to regain some of his former splendor and magic and making it big again.
Each of these characters has a dream, and obsess at winning, but sadly, their characters don't really strike a chord in the viewer. There is no credible portrayal of the obsessive desire to come out on top, and even the scenes of losing [at the slots, gaming] are not very realistic. Most disappointing is the performance of Kim Basinger whose facial expressions and twitches inspire disgust more than sympathy. Her character here is unsympathetic, and the way she detaches herself from her family is pitying to watch.
There are however some good supporting roles - that of Viktor [played by Tim Roth] a bookie who is ruthless, and brutal in achieving his goals. Ray Liotta as the suffering husband is wasted in his bit role, and could have done with a more meatier role. The two guys that play the debt collectors are not too bad, though with the way the story is told, there is not much development in their roles either, at least not enough for us to care about either character.
All in all, this is a poor attempt at a movie purportedly dealing with gambling addiction. The characters are not given much room for development, and the ending seems like such a rip-off, a weak attempt at tying up loose ends, and appears somewhat preachy [what with some of the characters being given redemption]. It is hard to take this movie very seriously when there is no credible attempt to address the actual problem of gambling addiction, its origins or solutions. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Trailers: Beyond the Gates, The TV Set, Sweet Land, Haven, The Illusionist.