Even Money (2007)

Rated: R
Grade: DDAB=B+/D
Budget: Unknown, but not high.
Box Office: $65 thousand (yes, not million)

Directed by: Mark Rydell, who hasn’t made much in the last two decades. Previously, he did The River, For the Boys, and On Golden Pond.
Starring: Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Kelsey Grammer, Nick Cannon, Ray Liotta, forest Whitaker, Jay Mohr, and Tim Roth.

A struggling writer conceals her gambling addiction from her husband by claiming to be working on her next book as she befriends a con-man/magician with big dreams. On the other side of town, a local basketball star must decide whether he will shave points on games to help his heavily indebted brother. The third set of characters are bookies and corrupt cops. It’s a vignette piece, okay?

Entertainment Value: D
This is a film noir public service announcement about the dangers of gambling. I couldn’t find the production budget, but I’m figuring that all the big names did this virtually pro bono in an effort to produce something of use to addicted gamblers. Sadly, despite all the big talent, the movie really drags on and is not enticing enough to really keep our attention. It is, however, realistic and honest in its portrayal of problem gambling.

Superficial Content: D
Drugs/Alcohol D, Sexuality B, Violence D, Language D, Illegality F
This is the graphic underside of legal and illegal gambling with people being beaten up, lying to spouses, drinking too much, corrupt police, and murder/suicide. It’s definitely an R, which is fine, since only those people who are living this way should be watching it anyhow.

Significant Content: A
You cannot gamble your way out of gambling problems, and if you let gambling take control, the only end to it all is personal tragedy.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
Although I didn’t enjoy the film, and I doubt anyone would describe it as “enjoyable,” at least it’s willing to finish what it starts without very much flinching. They take it all the way to the end with every character, and my only gripe was that they sort of let Kim Basinger off the hook.

Discussion Questions:
~One of the main rationalizations used by Whitaker and Basinger is that everyone is imperfect, but are all forms of imperfection equal? Is missing a shot in a basketball game the same as gambling too much or stealing your family’s savings?
~Does a person have to live a perfect life in order to point out the serious immoralities of other people? Are the standards true regardless of whether people hit them consistently themselves?
~Have you ever felt the thrill of winning at gambling? Why do you think people gamble or gamble excessively? Is it more like a disease or more like a choice?
~Can a virtuous person run a gambling operation, legal or illegal?
~Why is Basinger impressed by DeVito’s magic? Are we always impressed by those things we just can’t do ourselves?
~Can you think of some other marital catastrophes which start off with minor deception and concealment besides gambling?
Overall Grade: B/D
The point of this movie is simple: watch it with anyone who you know has a gambling problem or who is involved in illegal betting. It’s a crutch for gambling interventions. For everyone else, not so much value.

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