Two Dramas from Fox
Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie (March 11/10)
Based on a true story, Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie follows Arizona State student Benny Silman (David Krumholtz) as he starts earning thousands of dollars a week by working as a bookie's assistant - with trouble ensuing as Benny, who has long-since gone into business for himself, becomes embroiled in a progressively high-profile point-shaving scheme. The almost excessive familiarity of the movie's storyline is initially not as problematic as one might've expected, with Ernest R. Dickerson's dynamic directorial choices and Krumholtz's personable work proving effective at capturing the viewer's interest at the outset - even if, in terms of the latter, Krumholtz does occasionally go just a little overboard with the New Yorker stuff (ie the accent, the swagger, etc). It's also worth noting that Benny's budding relationship with a fellow student (Jennifer Morrison's Callie) provides the film with appreciated breaks from the gambling-centric narrative, although even this facet of the proceedings ultimately resorts to hoary cliches and hackneyed developments (ie their expected breakup is triggered by his almost instantaneous transformation into a sleazebag). Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie's watchable yet far-from-enthralling atmosphere persists right up until the movie enters its egregiously conventional third act, with the predictable trajectory of Benny's storyline virtually negating the strength of everything that precedes it (and this is to say nothing of the film's bizarre, after-school-special-like coda, in which the real Benny Silman laments his illicit activities directly into the camera).
Erstwhile actor Scott Cooper's directorial debut, Crazy Heart follows grizzled country singer Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) as he falls for a thirtysomething reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal's Jean Craddock) and enlists a former protégé (Colin Farrell's Tommy Sweet) in his efforts at mounting a comeback. It's clear right from the get-go that Crazy Heart benefits substantially from Bridges' justifiably lauded work, as the actor slips into the skin of this seriously unlikable character with an ease that's nothing short of staggering - thus ensuring that one is initially drawn into the non-existent storyline based solely on the promise of Bridges' Oscar-winning performance. There's little doubt, then, that it's the slow-paced and almost egregiously uneventful nature of Cooper's screenplay that ultimately prevents the viewer from wholeheartedly connecting to the material, with the relatively amiable atmosphere eventually giving way to an emphasis on curiously hackneyed elements (ie Bad loses Jean's young son while on an outing) - which ensures that the movie runs out of steam long before the credits roll. The final result is an aggressively uneven piece of work that would hardly be worth mentioning were it not for the efforts of Bridges and his stellar cast mates, although - to be fair - it's difficult not to admire the authenticity with which Cooper has hard-wired the proceedings.