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MVD Marquee Collection: Even Money (2006) - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 729 days ago on Entertainment -  Actor/director Mark Rydell left an indelible mark on American cinema, most memorably playing the ruthless gangster in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye before helping cement Bette Midler’s acting career with both The Rose and For the Boys.  Along the way he directed the Academy Award winning classic On Golden Pond as well as the Mel Gibson starring drama The River.  Needless to say, the man’s made and starred in some of the best films between the 1970s and 1980s, many of which continue to endure critically and commercially to this very day.   To see his career more or less peter out in the early 2000s with his star studded but ultimately dismal ensemble film about gambling addiction Even Money is kind of a sad end to an otherwise great director’s career but here we are.  Recently rescued from oblivion by MVD Marquee Collection who seem to have made unearthing films of this kind their trade, the film arrives on the heels of Pulp Fiction, Traffic and Requiem for a Dream as collection of three interlocking stories loosely related thematically and by turn of events.  By the time of the film’s arrival in the marketplace filmgoers have seen this kind of film to death with some elements leaning towards outright contrivance.   Cutting between three characters, Even Money zeroes in on novelist Carolyn Carver (Kim Basinger) who for some time has lead her husband Tom (Ray Liotta) to believe she’s working on a new book when in fact she’s busy gambling away their life savings.  During her spending spree she befriends Walter (Danny DeVito), a washed-up former magician with an equally consuming gambling addiction.  Very loosely related to these characters are Clyde Snow (Forest Whitaker), a loser drowning in debt to gamblers who is being pressured to persuade his younger brother, a rising college basketball star, to lose a few points during the games.   In the time-honored tradition of these kinds of ensemble dramas, things will come to a head with these three disparate characters lives crashing together in some form or another.  Overall it is a well-acted and shot film, boasting a moody score by The Graduate composer Dave Grusin and fine performances across the board from all the cast members.  It’s a competently made effort but considering the caliber of talent behind the camera it should have soared.  Films like The Rose and On Golden Pond still have the power to pack an emotional wallop.  Here, the story of this ill-fated trio of characters just kind of begins and ends without much of an impact.   Rydell completists will enjoy seeing the director’s final feature film project before hanging his glasses and retiring from the director’s chair.  Those looking for a compelling portrait of gambling addiction however are likely to come away underwhelmed, particularly when compared to the far greater eventual gambling addiction epic Mississippi Grind.  Still, if this MVD Marquee release of Mark Rydell’s final film manages to generate enough interest in the films of his that are absolutely worth seeing and are still relevant to cinephiles, then job well done!  Not the great director’s finest hour but certainly worth checking out.--Andrew Kotwicki  (function() { var zergnet = document.createElement('script'); zergnet.type = 'text/javascript'; zergnet.async = true; zergnet.src = (document.location.protocol == "https:" ? "https:" : "http:") + '//'; var znscr = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; znscr.parentNode.insertBefore(zergnet, znscr); })();

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