The holiday movie season is in full gear. On Thursday, two sports films debuted: "Tony La Russa DUI Arrest" (available in its entirety here) and "Bob Knight Caught Hunting on Private Property" (you can catch this one here).
Here are reviews for each film.
"Tony La Russa DUI Arrest" (PG for adult situations)
American cinema has long dealt with crises in leadership -- from "Patton" to "Office Space" -- but never before has a film focused on a leader literally being asleep at the wheel. Until now, that is. "Tony La Russa DUI Arrest" is a stunning look at a respected public figure being stripped of dignity and freedom, as the baseball manager is arrested and charged with DUI in Jupiter, Fla.
Tony La Russa (St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland A's) puts in a quality performance -- even doing his own stunts in the walking-the-painted-line and standing-on-one-foot scene -- but Jupiter police officer John O'Keefe almost steals the movie in a supporting role as the fair, even-tempered arresting officer.
The script leaves all the best lines to La Russa, however.
"A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, I, Z, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, uh, V, Z, T, U, V, X, Y, X, Z."
"There is a difference between being asleep at the wheel and passed out at the wheel. I would challenge passed out."
But the humor and levity in La Russa doesn't overshadow the broader character study. And the direction is Oscar-worthy.
When the wind is howling while La Russa is doing the sobriety tests outside of his car, it's not just a windy night -- it's a storm gathering all around this great man. And in the final scene, La Russa, dressed in all black, stands on a white floor against a white wall, symbolizing the black mark he has just put on his unblemished reputation. Breathtaking.
The film also provides valuable insight into the characteristics that make a successful leader. When he is told his blood-alcohol level tested at .093 and .092 -- over the legal limit of .08 -- La Russa asks the officer: "What would be really high for a number ... that would get you really concerned?" It's clear he wants to post higher numbers in the future and yearns to excel in all areas of his life. (Do I smell sequel?) We also learn that La Russa has no glass eyes and no false teeth. Is it the blessings of sight and all-natural mastication -- two hallmarks of many great leaders -- that has allowed La Russa to be so successful? But have those advantages also left him ungrateful and willing to throw it all away for "two glasses of wine"?
It all leads up to a shocking surprise ending. I won't give it away, but let's just say the manager's unsteadiness could have been caused not by excessive alcohol consumption, but by a mystery virus ravaging his inner ear.
I give this film two giant glasses of wine up (to my mouth). Drink "Tony La Russa DUI Arrest" in deep and you'll be so drunk off the joy of great moviemaking that you just might get arrested.
"Bob Knight Caught Hunting on Private Property" (PG-13 for adult situations, guns)
The handheld camera and quick cuts employed in "Bob Knight Caught Hunting on Private Property" are all the rage right now in moviemaking, but the premise of the film is as old as civilization itself, as men clash over property and the rights to hunt and kill food.
Bob Knight and his friend Bob might be hunting doves, but there is no peace in this film. Shot from the viewpoint of James Simpson of Lubbock, Texas, Bob Knight opens with Simpson confronting Knight and his friend about shooting too close to his house.
Simpson: "I asked you nicely."
Simpson: "To move down. You're too close to my house. Pellets fell on my house."
Knight: "I didn't shoot once in that direction."
Simpson: "Pellets fell on my house. You're the two."
And with that, this high-tension battle of wits is off.
But for all the promise of "Knight," the viewer is left wanting. The dialogue becomes repetitive. Lines such as "I asked you to move down," "You're too close to my house" and "How would you like it if I came to your house and shoot and have pellets land in your backyard?" were heard a few too many times by this reviewer.
Knight even seems to acknowledge the script's failings at one point when he says after one of Simpson's repeated lines: "I know. We heard you."
And for all the buildup in the movie, we are left with no payoff, no resolution. For a while it seems as if at any moment a fistfight will break out but it never does. And then, when Simpson finally walks off back to his house and the camera is facing away from Knight and Bob, we expect him to be felled with a shotgun blast from the combative coach, the camera dropping to the ground and catching his final breaths as a cackling Knight stands over him. But, again ... nothing.
"Knight" has its positives, of course. The coach telling Simpson, "You didn't ask us to move down. You swore and cussed ... you ask us politely, I'll be glad to do it" is a delicious bit of irony.
And the director employs Knight's friend "Bob" cleverly. Bob is not so much a real person, but instead the other side of the coach's personality: quiet, reserved ... but still armed. Knight ultimately blames this Bob for shooting at Simpson's house, giving a glimpse of the internal strife that has always simmered just below the surface of Coach Knight.
But even here "Knight" misses the mark. What is this charge of past catfish stealing that Simpson throws at Bob? We are given no details.
The movie could also be shorter. The final scene, which takes up about a quarter of the picture, is just Simpson filming out the window back at his house, recounting all the events that just transpired -- and again, regrettably, repeating some of the same lines. This scene provides no resolution to the plot and should have been left on the cutting-room floor.
All in all, "Knight" shows how modern technology can help an average citizen take on the powerful elite, but if you expect anything more than an average cinematic experience from this movie, let this review serve as a shotgun warning blast.
DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He is also a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and has written for The Onion and Cracked. His first book "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck" is on sale now.