An airball of an attempt to dramatically retell the point-shaving saga of Arizona State’s 1993-94 basketball season, “Big Shot” feels rushed at every turn, with caricatures dominating the acting, voiceover filling the plot and motivational holes and a coda that subliminally screams: Don’t bet on Monday’s NCAA tournament finale.
David Krumholz (“The Mexican”) is a decent actor who’s forced to slip into Brooklynese to play Benny Silman, the New Yorker who went West to be surrounded by gorgeous girls during his college years. A successful trip to Las Vegas with some fellow Gotham transplants gives him the bug for wagering and, as the story plays out, Vegas becomes a crutch and his den of iniquity.
He’s a bright kid, and after establishing a base of friends and nabbing an attractive, loyal girlfriend, Callie (Jennifer Morrison), he gets into the gambling game. Rather quickly, he establishes himself as a big shot with ties to some rather unsavory characters, Chicago transplant Joe Jr. (Nick Turturro) and Big Red (Keith Joseph Loneker). More importantly, he befriends Stevin “Hedake” Smith (Tory Kittles), ASU’s star shooter, who also likes to place a bet or two. Problem explodes when he finds himself $10,000 in debt to Silman, a fact that’s brought up at story’s end rather than in the dramatic development. In the telepic, Hedake figures he can slide a few inches and allow a defender to score or miss a shot he takes himself, the appeal being the money he gets from the gamblers in the know. It’s a thoroughly different motivation for his actions.
As Silman’s life becomes one big party, he runs into trouble as Hedake is lifted from a game, causing ASU to score at will and gamblers to lose millions. Silman pays the price as Big Red pummels him with his fists in the telepic’s odd transition: Fighting scene freezes, voiceover continues and the scene shifts to San Diego with Silman sipping a margarita on the beach. Whatever juice the film may have had, this segment shuts it all down. Pic closes with the FBI catching on to the scam and making arrests; Silman is punished most severely.
The real Benny Silman closes the film with a speech on how he threw everything away, an anti-gambling message that suggests viewers won’t understand that what this kid did led to no good. His herky-jerky movements and Nu Yawk accent led some credence to Krumholz’s portrayal, though the rest of the lot are stuck in stereotype straitjackets, especially Turturro and Alex Rocco, who did little more than collect money and make payouts from the back of a limo.
Director Ernest Dickerson wisely keeps the story away from the court but fails to generate any rooting interest or sympathy for any of the characters. An early scene about ancient graphics used to describe how the line works in sports gambling will turn off anyone attracted to the subject matter.