Eight Men Out (1988, John Sayles)

A good, if depressing, baseball movie. Funny that it was made in the 80’s and not more recently – a writer today could make some good parallels to today’s baseball fans feeling cheated after the steroid scandals.

Sayles is good with ensembles, and he masterfully introduces most of the players and other characters mid-game at the beginning of the movie. The movie was high-quality throughout even if it didn’t blow me away. I thought each game of the world series was too montagey, though I don’t have a better suggestion of how to get through eight baseball games in a two-hour movie. Katy liked how it showed the strained personal relationships on the field when the team started underperforming – especially strained since some team members weren’t in on the fix and didn’t know why their teammates were playing such crappy ball. I also dug how the sports reporters kept scorecards on possible cheaters, gathering evidence, because who would know better than the reporters what constitutes a dodgy play? Funny how the small-time gamblers (Richard Edson and an under-used Christopher Lloyd) even testified at the trial, apparently having nothing to lose legally. The players were so screwed financially that they agreed to throw the series, and they were rewarded with a little money and with a lifetime ban from the sport.

John Cusack (fresh off Tapeheads) plays a neighborhood boy who grudgingly accepts the situation but tries not to look too bad in public, or get dragged down into the scandal. His teammates: Charlie Sheen (who directly followed this film with Major League), David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck) as a shame-filled pitcher, DB Sweeney (The Cutting Edge) as Shoeless Joe Jackson, Michael Rooker (Slither, star of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) as the lead schemer, and Gordon Clapp (Sayles’ Return of the Secaucus Seven) as the frustrated catcher. Also money man Michael Lerner (the movie mogul in Barton Fink) and Comiskey (played by Clifton James of Cool Hand Luke, The Last Detail).