Eight Men Out

Genre: Drama / Baseball

Production Year: 1988

Director: John Sayles

Screenplay: John Sayles from the book by Eliot Asinof


Running Time: a shade under two hours


The Black Sox node describes the history of the scandal itself, and the movie sticks closely to the history. The short form is that the 1919 World Series between the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds was fixed by several players on the White Sox. Because they were favored to win the series, Arnold Rothstein, a bookie, paid them to lose so that he would not have to pay out on the bets made against them. Eight players were indicted the next year, but found not guilty. However, the new baseball commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who had been given complete control over baseball by the owners, banned all eight players from baseball.

There are a few movies that I will stop everything and watch. "The Right Stuff", "Harold and Maude", "The Natural", "The Princess Bride" are just a few. They have several things in common:

  • They don't have a "star" but a strong collection of actors
  • They are well written
  • The director has a clue what they are doing
  • It is filled with believable acting
  • The characters are human

"Eight Men Out" is all of these things.

It's not an action-packed movie like The Princess Bride, full of quips and light-hearted moments.

It's not a stirring recounting of heroic actions and the human aspects of heros like The Right Stuff

It's a baseball movie. But its more than that - it is baseball.

Some people fault the movie for the same reasons people dismiss baseball - its uncertainty and lack of focus. Its slow pace. Its lack of purpose - what does one game matter when there are 190 or so in a season?

for example

"an oddly unfocused movie made of earth tones, sidelong glances and elliptic conversations".
Roger Ebert
"it's meandering and shallow. It's interesting, yes, but when all is said and done, what purpose is there in the film? The story is told, yet it seems very little is actually said. The movie takes no moral stance; worse, it does not present the issues for the viewer to consider."
At-a-Glance Film Reviews

These people have missed the point of the movie. They aren't looking at how the movie is presenting its message. The causes and resolution of the scandal are not black and white and neither is the film. Yes, Charlie Comiskey is a cheap bastard who benches Eddie Cicotte to keep him from winning 30 games and collecting a $10,000 bonus. So to Eddie this is pay-back. Each player's reasons for joining into the fix are different, as I'm sure they were in real life. The players are human,with flaws and needs that they must meet somehow.

Sayles has drawn extensively from Chicago actors to fill out his ensemble cast. The actors do a wonderful job bringing the characters motivations and their inner workings to just under the surface where we can see them peeking out. Especially notable are John Cusack, in a serious role, (this was after The Sure Thing and Better Off Dead but before Say Anything) and the always wonderful David Strathairn. The atmosphere of the era is perfectly captured in the sepia tones of the sets and the clothes.

Cool Stuff I Found Researching This Film at IMDb

Bill Irwin was in Hot Shots with Charlie Sheen.

Don Harvey was in Thin Red Line with John Cusack.

John Cusack was in Being John Malkovich with Charlie Sheen and Say Anything (1989) with John Mahoney.

Gordon Clapp was in two prior John Sayles films, Matewan and Return of the Secaucus 7.

Jace Alexander was also in Matewan.

Charlie Sheen starred in Major League (1989) the next year, and also did Major League II (1994).

David Strathairn was in Bob Roberts with John Cusack and also in Matewan, Return of the Secaucus 7, and Brother From Another Planet, and returned to baseball in A League of Their Own.

Dick Cusack (John's father) is in the movie.

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