Even Money

Director: Mark Rydell

For gamblers, the thing about addiction is that it’s never satisfied. Players are only ahead for so long but in the end, the house always wins, even if gamblers lose their own house in the process. This is exactly the risk facing Carol Carver (Kim Basinger), a married novelist who claims she’s spending her days working on book number two but in reality is spending her time losing her teenage daughter’s college fund and husband Ray Liotta’s trust while playing the slot machines. Mark Rydell’s gloomy portrait of addiction emphasizes gambling as the root of the character’s problems but he’s also careful to include the addictions of love, power and money as we meet a group of desperate characters whose lives are beginning to unravel. Loss of control in contemporary society is a recurring theme for Crash producer Bob Yari’s films and while Even Money is no Crash, the increasingly impressive Yari Film Group managed to produce the film with an equally impressive ensemble cast including Danny De Vito, Nick Cannon, Carla Gugino, Forest Whitaker, Grant Sullivan, Jay Mohr, Tim Roth and a nearly unrecognizable Kelsey Grammer. While some critics were justifiably irritated by the film’s decision not to explain the reasons for the character’s addictions or even how or why they became gamblers in the first place, there’s enough good performances to help keep the film afloat and some of the stories are more successful than others such as the tale about college basketball star Nick Cannon who is persuaded into throwing games to help his indebted older brother Forest Whitaker. Although Basinger’s twitchy and shaking pathetic addict made me want to throw in the towel whenever she was onscreen due to her underwritten characterization, she reminds us of her Academy Award winning power in her scenes with DeVito as a tragic dreaming has-been magician who wants to start anew. All the while we’re drawn into a mystery surrounding the death of a bookie at the beginning of the film and the possible involvement of the often discussed but unseen mastermind Ivan who many of the characters want to track down until a rushed finale that doesn’t quite have the emotional kick for which the film and the constant dialogue about the man had prepared us.