A semi-fictionalized account of the scandal surrounding the 1919 World Series, coined the Black Sox Scandal, is presented. The Chicago White Sox, considered the cream of the crop and one of the best major league teams ever, has just won the American League pennant, and are odds on favorites to win the World Series against the Reds. While team owner Charles A. Comiskey publicly crows about the superiority of the team he has assembled especially in their cohesion, he is unaware that arguably the cohesion in the players' determination to win is matched only by their feeling of unappreciation by Comiskey, especially financially as he screws them over time and time again on promises made. Sensing an opportunity, professional gamblers begin to feel out who they believe may be sympathetic Chicago players to a game and/or series fixing scheme, especially lucrative seeing as the to the disparity between the two teams. There end up being eight players "in" to various degrees, from being the "...Written by
Early in the film, Eddie Collins (Bill Irwin) takes a piece of chewing gum out of his mouth, and places it on the button of his cap, which Eddie Collins did in real life. He would put the gum back in his mouth if he had two strikes during an at-bat. See more »
The catcher Ray Schalk mostly has his mask on wrong as the gap in the mask for his eyes is at his forehead. See more »
[Atell and Rothstein are discussing the plan to fix the series]
They say that six or seven guys. I find that hard to believe.
Doesn't surprise me.
Yeah, but they're the champs.
You were champ, Abe, you went down for the bucks.
This is different.
Look, champ. I know guys like that. I grew up with them. I was the fat kid they wouldn't let play. "Sit down, fat boy'. That's what they'd say "Sit down, maybe you'll learn something." Well, I learned something alright. Pretty soon, I owned the game, and ...
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During the opening credits of the movie, they are done against a blue cloudy sky up, then to the right and down to the bottom. Despite the ensemble cast, the most well-known leading and character actors at the time were credited first in alphabetical order, then lesser known actors that had roles that were just as large or larger were credited in pairs of two. Example: John Cusack, Christopher Lloyd, and Charlie Sheen were credited first, due to their successes with The Sure Thing, Back to the Future, and Platoon, respectively, but in pairs, Michael Rooker, Kevin Tighe, and Richard Edson also had pivotal roles, but were lesser known. Charlie Sheen was already well-established, but had no more than a few minutes of screen time the entire movie, Christopher Lloyd and Richard Edson were always together playing gamblers, but Lloyd was a much more well-known actor and credited first. See more »
Five seconds were cut from the British theatrical release in order to obtain a "PG" rating by removing a use of strong language. The film was later released uncut on video and the rating was upgraded to "15", which was subsequently downgraded to "12" for the DVD. See more »
Eight Men Out provides a "Reader's Digest" version of the complicated events surrounding the 1919 World Series.
If you forgive the fact the film has to simplify certain aspects of the conspiracy in order to make the film easier to digest, then you will find that Eight Men Out is a worthy film and in the category of "baseball movies" it's one of the best.
There are anachronisms in the film here and there, the worst of which is Buck Weaver's question asking which of the lawyers was the "Babe Ruth" of law. Sure Babe Ruth was coming into his own by 1920, but most ballplayers in that era would not have place Ruth in the class of Cobb, Tris Speaker or Walter Johnson. For baseball fans, this line in particular really comes off as shallow, especially since the rest of the film really tries to capture the "dead-ball" era. For the most part though, this film feels and sounds a lot like America right after World War I ends, a fascinating time and place.
Studs Terkel steals the show in my estimation. His character in the film is not far from whom he is in real life and his authenticity is undeniable. John Sayles is a little stiff by comparison and his singing in the railway car (which according to legend did actually happen), is rather difficult to bear. None the less, his direction makes up for his foibles as an actor.
Straitharn is another gem in this movie, and once again this actor seems to get right to the soul of the characters he is given to play. Eddie Cicotte's dilemmas are written all over Straitharn's face in every scene, he's also given some of the best dialog in the film. Cusack plays his part well, despite the fact that many of his scenes are reduced to clichés. Cusack's best moments are when he is frustrated about his inclusion in the conspiracy trial, despite the fact he gave his all to try and win the series. His outbursts in the courtroom seem perfect, as if drawn from the trial transcripts themselves.
Joe Jackson is given unfair treatment. If "Field of Dreams" mythologizes Jackson to point of hyperbole, "Eight Men Out" plays up his illiteracy with too much of a heavy hand. Joe Jackson wasn't stupid, indeed if you read his last major interview before he died, he speaks about the "Black Sox" with great alacrity and clarity. He was not as ignorant as this film would have you believe. One day someone will produce a film about Joe Jackson, that will portray him accurately, but Eight Men Out is not that film.
Although their roles are very minor, Kid Gleason and Ray Schalk are really well played and written. These two went through a very difficult time during the series, and this is well demonstrated. One minor beef is that Nemo Leibold, Shano Collins and other players outside of the conspiracy are never touched upon at all. This is understandable to a degree given the relatively short length of the film, despite the complexity of the subject matter.
The baseball scenes themselves are well done. The bats, balls, gloves and uniforms look like the equipment of that era and the ballparks are successful mock ups for the most part. There are even a couple of nifty athletic displays in the outfield that must have taken several takes to pull off.
Overall, this is my second favorite baseball movie, next to "Bull Durham". Its a little light on some of the details of the conspiracy, but it makes up for it in other areas. It has some great music, some great sets, some solid acting and overall seems genuine and fair to all the major players in the conspiracy.
Eight Men Out isn't perfect, but it isn't as flawed as Roger Ebert would have you believe. If you a fan of baseball in fact, I'd say its mandatory viewing.
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