This was a lot of fun. Edward Norton being an absolute shithead; Matt Damon playing a very prototypical Matt Damon role; John Malkovich chewing up more scenery than I sincerely thought possible; even John Turturro doing, uh, John Turturro things. (Weird, and resonant, to see him so soon after watching his slam-dunk performance in Severance ↗!)
This is a sport movie, and it's a by-the-numbers one: the set-up, the guy who walks away, the reason to come back, the brink of defeat, the upset victory, the bigger and better things. I think what makes it a good sports movie is two-fold:
- There's a lot of room to breathe. The score is sparse and well-deployed; Damon narrates but not too much; there are entire scenes of scene-chewery that are not exactly nimble but well-earned (the judge's monologue in the bar feels like something out of an Aaron Sorkin production, and I mean that in a good way.)
- It's lived in in a way that feels more organic than, say, Moneyball ↗ which is a sports movie that succeeds on the back of its surgical precision. We don't need to know the names and backstories of the various bit players or rundown speakeasy gambling dens, and our time spent with them benefits from it.