Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Premiered on ESPN on September 25, 2004
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Written by Christian Darren
Cast: Tom Sizemore, Dash Mihok, George DiCenzo, Melissa DeMarco, Sarain Boylan, Carlos Diaz, Jayne Eastwood, Paulino Nunes, Geoffrey Bowes, Mike Didier, Devon Bostick, Melanie Marden, Kim Allan
The short, sad story of former Cincinnati Reds player-manager Pete Rose, who was accused of betting on baseball while managing the Reds, and ultimately was banished from the sport by Commissioner Bart Giamatti after legal investigations showed that the allegations were, for the most part, true. This biographical account centered on events that occurred between 1986 and 1989, when Rose became friends with Paul Janszen, a man who was drawn into Rose’s illicit gambling affairs, and concluded with Janszen blowing the whistle and Rose agreeing to the banishment, in exchange for a ‘no finding’ ruling by Major League Baseball.
I was surprised that this made-for-cable baseball biopic was directed by Peter Bogdanovich—who had helmed such cinematic treasures as The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon—but dismayed to find that here, his skills behind the camera were less evident; the execution and delivery of story events felt klunky, and a preponderance of oddly-framed shots and close-ups only made things worse. It was as if he was just going through the directorial motions, and fulfilling some sort of obligation that held no interest for him whatsoever.
Strangely, actor Tom Sizemore portrayed Rose as a loveable lunkhead, and unfortunately, you can’t just give an actor a mop-top haircut (or what looked like a mop-top wig in this case) and expect him to be Pete Rose. I was totally unconvinced by the performance; there was something about the Rose persona—his energy and his cocksure nature, for starters—that neither the filmmakers nor Sizemore could quite capture. Instead, Sizemore imbued his character with a happy-go-lucky outlook and an awkward gait, which only made him appear both mentally and physically challenged.
However, there apparently was a dark, manipulative side to Rose, and here was where Bogdanovich and Sizemore hit the mark, making him look not only like a selfish, contemptible jerk, but a deceptively untrustworthy one as well. Somewhere, there’s a compelling story buried in the film, and after all that’s been said and reported about the situation over the years, it would’ve been nice to get a more realistic and in-depth look of what actually transpired, instead of the partially fictionalized account that was presented here.
I was a Reds fan in the 1970s and 1980s, and here I got a kick out of seeing views of old Riverfront Stadium and hearing the names of players and coaches from that era’s squad, but apparently no one bothered to study team-issued yearbooks or media guides, because the likenesses were appallingly off-base; only actor George DiCenzo, as Giamatti, was a dead-ringer for the original.
And like I’d said about Eight Men Out—another gambling-themed baseball film—I think this particular story would’ve been better told as a multi-episode series, where circumstances and details could’ve been fleshed out and dealt with in a more all-encompassing manner. As it stands, Hu$tle was nothing more than a surface-level tabloid exposé on a troubled ballplayer, and nowhere near the fact-based character study it should’ve been. (3/10)