Magical Money Disappearance
Gambling is bad. Really bad. Even Money will tell you so. Repeatedly. And, from the mouths of great actors in an ensemble cast, one of those post-Crash actor-a-thons that stuffs the poster with names. The movie part? That disintegrates when finding room for everyone in an intertwining drama.
Stock emotion pushes through middle class domestic life, a poor magician living in a trailer, a working class handyman, and the bookies connecting them all. It ends in tragedy, of course. That was another trait of Crash knock-offs, along with their morality plays. Even Money doesn’t play against type.
Even Money doesn’t play against type
Even Money doesn’t play against type
Even Money finds great performances. Even when spouting off tired dialog, Kim Basinger can still make the material palpable. Forest Whitaker too, torn between gambling debts and his basketball star brother, who can be used to skew the odds. Keep going – Kelsey Grammer, Danny DeVito, Carla Gugino, Tim Roth, Ray Liotta, Jay Mohr; the list is undeniably pristine, and each part competently played. Together in this stuffy, preachy story though, screen presence amounts to little.
If any thread collapses totally, that’s Basinger and Liotta, a married couple with a teen daughter, plummeting into hopeless cliches as the marriage stumbles due to Basinger’s late night casino trips. The arguments, the pleading kid, accusations, and surveillance isn’t even fit for a daytime soap anymore. At least DeVito’s magician character, mercifully intersecting with Basinger, brings a little color.
It’s possible Even Money had something with DeVito. He’s charming and shady enough as a lounge performer, stuck in his outmoded sleight-of-hand routines. Whitaker gives Even Money the strongest dramatic depth, but DeVito is genuinely interesting. There’s an entire backstory to him, a full history, waiting to fight its way through the companion plots. But no. Gambling bad, including some truly dire debate club-esque conversations about bookie nobility, with Gugino sitting in a car, thunderstorm roaring, because that’s where movies decide to place such things.
There is one twist. That comes in the final 30 seconds. It’s not worth sitting through Even Money to see the responsible party behind this financial carnage. The mopey and tragic melodrama is like a black hole sucking in the entertainment value over two extended long hours.
MVD most likely licenses this transfer, and it looks untouched since its first DVD release. Significant (sometimes) haloing indicates sharpening akin to the SD era. Sagging resolution muddies potential detail, lacking in definition and providing no real organic sharpness. Better than DVD? Sure, if mostly due to improved compression.
Minimal grain appears, easily resolved, but smushed by the lacking resolution. Black levels hide plenty, solid and pure, keeping the oppressive shadows intact. There’s little contrast in the imagery since the intent weighs on the aesthetic. Rarely does brightness factor in, but it’s capable when allowed.
Even Money’s color palette maintains natural hues. Flesh tones hit their marks, and occasional primaries succeed where possible. Scenes in casinos, slot machines blinking, along with a few neons bring some needed intensity. Grading will send things toward morose blues here and there, returning flush color in the next scene.
Between the 5.1 DTS-HD and PCM stereo, stick with the 5.1. It’s a little fuller, although unspectacular in discrete terms since rear channels barely factor. A casino scene drops in ambiance. A small game crowd slips out. So too does some heavy rain, but aggression isn’t high in the mix. Stereos find more use, giving Even Money a wide front soundstage.
A jazzier score asks for subwoofer support. It’s provided, smooth and tight. Satisfying range even extends to a dribbled basketball, hitting the wood court and giving off a decent little thud.
Nothing but trailers.
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Although pulling together a stellar cast, Even Money crumbles into an anti-gambling PSA and soap opera-tier drama.
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