Buck Weaver: John Cusack
Swede Risberg: Don Harvey
Kid Gleason: John Mahoney
Lefty Williams: James Read
Chick Gandil: Michael Rooker
Hap Felsch: Charlie Sheen
Eddie Cicotte: David Strathairn
"Shoeless" Joe Jackson: D.B. Sweeney
Ring Lardner: John Sayles
Hugh Fullerton: Studs Terkel
Bill Burns: Christopher Lloyd
Charles Comiskey: Clifton James
Directed and Written By John Sayles.
Running Time: 120 Minutes. Rated PG
“Say it ain’t so Joe…” - Little boy famously uttering to legendary baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson on learning he helped fix the 1919 World Series and cover it up.
CoverUps.com Rating: 3 UFOs
CoverUps.com Staff Writer
(May 10, 2007) -
Charles Comisky, long ago owner of the Chicago White Sox, shows himself to be a penurious cheapskate, who benches one of his star players on his 29th win, just so he doesn’t have to pay him a bonus on that guy's 30th victory. Such antics, according to the film Eight Men Out, are reasons the 1919 White Sox baseball team mutinied on him and threw the World Series.
Eight Men Out - a good title for a gay coming of age film, huh? - opens with a montage of life around Chicago in 1919. Gradually, we meet most of the players that will go on to participate in the famous scandal. Admittedly, it is hard to keep track of exactly who is who in this movie, because it is so ambitious in presenting every player to us. Your task is considerably easier if you are a big fan of the baseball game. Lost in the shuffle, are famous personas only hinted at, such as Shoeless Joe Jackson, who might be more famous for having been mentioned by Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams than he is in this film. This sad fact is endemic of problems in Eight Men Out: you need a score card to keep track of all these guys. Which really might not be a bad idea - they are a baseball team after all.
Some critics have chided Eight Men Out for being unfocused. I didn’t have a problem with the focus of the film at all, but I will admit the movie tries to do a lot. What it did the best in my opinion was not so much explain what led these players to throw the World Series but rather explore the nature of integrity when push comes to shove. It showed us that even doing the “wrong thing” can be difficult to do if it cuts acrss the grain of your suspended morality. After all, these men are trained to win. They are professional athletes that got to where they were because of their desire to do nothing but win and succeed. Now, they must lose on purpose and in doing so bag a handsome profit. It may sound easy but they are fighting their conditioned experience and very own nature.
This becomes evident when the players take the field. Each to a varying degree, do not want to be the one to “look bad” while throwing the series. They kind of leave the thankless task up to the pitcher to lob some meatballs and let his curveballs hang.
Meanwhile, Shoeless Joe Jackson, who would more aptly be called Brainless Joe Jackson, is portrayed as not the fastest mental bat in the club house. He agreed to participate in the throwing the game, but none of his efforts would suggest that otherwise. He hustled his ass off as always. So too did Buck Weaver, played admirably by John Cusack. He was the one player who would not, eh, play ball – to borrow a metaphor. So, what the hell else was he going to do? He hustled his ass off like Shoeless – even batted .327 as he would point out mostly in the ensuring court room drama only to be told that nobody cares what he batted in the Series.
There is a lot going on in this movie and I will not bog you down with the particulars. You do need to know a thing or two about baseball to really enjoy it and perhaps that takes away the chances this movie will have broad appeal. It is adequately acted and the production values are good. It is a solid effort.
Eight Men Out is surely no walk off homer, but it isn't a nine inning snore either. It is a decent film about decent people who were pitched a curveball from their morailty and found it very difficult to hit.