MGM // 2003 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // January 21st, 2005
Risk is the biggest rush.
Here's the long of it: Three college buddies get tired of losing money gambling and decide to become bookies. Here's the sort of it: You've seen all this before. Bookies is bland, innocuous, and predictable. In fact, if you remove the f-bombs and drug use from the script, this could almost be an episode of Saved by the Bell: The College Years.
Toby (Nick Stahl, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines), Jude (Johnny Galecki, Vanilla Sky), and Casey (Lukas Haas, Witness), students at Kingston State College, have been getting screwed out of hefty sums of cash by Larry (David Proval, Nunzio) and Vincent (John Diehl, Jurassic Park III), the town bookies. After losing a pretty big wager, the three friends decide to go into the bookmaking business for themselves. Toby makes nice with Hunter (Rachel Leigh Cook, Josie and the Pussycats), a popular sports medicine major/soccer player; this allows them to gather clients from the school's seemingly endless supply of athletes and frat members. Next thing you know, the young entrepreneurs' operation is clearing four thousand dollars a week. This doesn't sit well with Larry and Vincent (who just happen to be mobsters), who don't like other people playing in their sandbox, and the three pals soon find themselves in over their heads.
The plot of Bookies is predictable enough, and screenwriter Michael Bacall (Manic) and director Mark Illsley (Happy, Texas) go ahead and shoot themselves in the other foot by starting the film at the bookies' lowest point and then doubling back to the beginning of things (kind of like Fight Club, except Fight Club doesn't suck). The protagonists are all stock characters, and you know exactly where each is headed (expect maybe Casey, but that's simply because Haas is given nothing to do during the second half of the film). Jude develops a coke habit simply because the story needs some kind of conflict between him and Toby; the same can be said of Jude's extravagant spending (although why Toby thinks Jude's sports car will draw undue attention but doesn't mind the plasma television sitting in their dorm room doesn't make a whole lot of sense). Here's another stunner: Toby and Hunter's relationship doesn't sit well with Jude (everybody knows you can't have a John and a Paul without a Yoko). The plot grows more ridiculous as the film nears its conclusion, and then goes completely over the edge at the climax. The outcome of the big basketball game is beyond belief, and I don't buy the scene in which Jude takes it upon himself to kill Larry and Vincent. I also doubt any successful mobster is dumb enough to be so easily duped by three college kids, and any mobster who is that dumb still wouldn't allow three college kids to get away with it without some form of retribution. Forget a happy ending -- I see three guys with bullet holes in the backs of their heads (a belief supported by the film's pointless coda). As for the acting, well, with the exception of Stahl and Cook, it's merely okay. Stahl is actually pretty good, but Cook simply can't act (nor is she cute enough for me to ignore the fact that she can't act).
MGM didn't exactly pull out all the stops for this disc. The transfer belies the film's shoestring budget; the overall look is cold and drab. Grain and edge enhancement have been kept to a minimum, but there's very little detail, and the black levels are poor. The Dolby Surround track is dialogue-heavy, so the audio is very screen-centric. The only surround activity is generated by the songs sprinkled throughout the film, and there's no low-end activity. The only extra is the film's theatrical trailer.
Bottom line: Don't bet on Bookies being worth your time or money.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer