- Format: NTSC
- Studio: MGM Canada
- Release Date: Mar 18 2008
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
- ASIN: B00114UUSQ
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #24,920 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
If you want a baseball movie with heart, get Field of Dreams.
For baseball movie fans, the depiction of Shoeless Joe Jackson is quite different from that in Field of Dreams.
Some criticism regarding the lack of character development and the difficulty in telling some of the characters apart at times. This is natural given that the film is trying to follow a variety of personalities. It could have either stood for better editing or the running time could have been extended.
Personally, I would have preferred a longer film, but that would hardly be to everyone's taste.
The best part of the film is the internal struggle of some (only some) of the players who, even though they've bought into the concept, simply can't accept not doing their best. It's a beautiful testimony to character.
Small thing: Another reviewer was bothered that Buck Weaver could not have hit 0.327 in the 1919 World Series. He is correct. Weaver hit 0.324 in 1919 and .333 in 1917. His combined average over the two Series was 0.327.
In his analysis of the rigging of the World Series of 1919, Sayles targets White Sox owner Comiskey as the true villain. And I believe this is accurate, if not justifiable, at the very least. The Black Sox scandal, as it came to be known, was undoubtedly the lowest point in baseball history, but it could have been avoided. Had Comiskey treated his players as they merited, it is doubtful any of it would have come about. This is not to say that these athletes were angelic: Sayles goes to great lengths to show that several of them would be easily corruptible, such as Chick Gandil (played by the underrated Michael Rooker). Other players seem to want to do the right thing, but are pushed too far by Comiskey--specifically, Eddie Cicotte, as portrayed by Sayles' favorite, David Strathairn. The enigmatic Shoeless Joe Jackson (subtly played by D.B. Sweeney) is just plain too dumb to understand the implications of his involvement. As others have noted, Jackson wound up the series' batting leader.
The real moral compass of EIGHT MEN OUT is Buck Weaver, played by John Cusack in what may have been the performance of his career. Sayles' Weaver is portrayed as the victim of the ultimate betrayal for not participating in the scheme. His teammates don't back him up. The courts do not defend him. The press lumps him together with the guilty. His only crime was not being a snitch. And for that, Weaver has basically been relegated to baseball history's limbo, in spite of an above-par career. Sayles does an admirable job in evoking a justified sympathy for Buck Weaver, and Cusack captures it beautifully.
EIGHT MEN OUT is not a mere baseball movie. Like much of Sayles' work, it's a film about greed, and the desire of American owners to extract as much from labor as possible, without giving anything in return.
P.S. -- Sayles does a great job of portraying writer Ring Lardner. I just wish he didn't sing!