2015, PG-13, 95 min. Directed by Terry Jastrow. Starring Jeremy Sumpter, Christopher McDonald, Jillian Murray, Michael Nouri, Katherine LaNasa, Jason Dohring, Elliott Grey.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., April 17, 2015
Where to begin with The Squeeze, a movie set in the world of gamblers, mobsters, and high-stakes golf matches? Well, let’s start with our main character, Augustus Maximus Baccas (Sumpter), but let’s just call him Augie. He’s a cocky, small-town kid from an unnamed Texas town who possesses extraordinary and unconventional golf skills. He dotes on his mom and younger sister; has a loving girlfriend, Natalie (Murray), who longs to visit Paris; and, of course, has to deal with an abusive and alcoholic father. (Augie’s father is played by Grey, who has exactly two scenes in which to convey that, yes, he is indeed a bully and, by the beer bottles surrounding him, an alcoholic. Well done!) When a dandy Southern gambler named Riverboat (McDonald, channeling Foghorn Leghorn) passes through town and happens to hear a live radio broadcast of a local golf tournament (not a thing, BTW) where Augie is killing it, he seeks out the young man and eventually convinces Augie (against the urgings of his girlfriend) to hit the links to make some quick cash. Naturally, Augie sees it as a way to get his family out of unspecified financial trouble.
The deal with the Devil made, Augie and Riverboat work over some locals on the green before being hustled out of town. Then it’s off to Las Vegas, where big stakes and even bigger trouble await them in the form of Nouri’s Jimmy Diamonds (seriously, who came up with these character names?), who after a round of poker with Riverboat (or just Boat, if you know him well), agree on a million-dollar golf match with life-or-death implications for Augie. Director Jastrow – who worked at ABC Sports for 22 years and has produced many a golf tournament and even a few Olympics – stages the actual golf scenes well enough (although, really, those scenes amount to: player hits ball, cut to ball flying through air, cut to ball landing near hole; repeat ad nauseam). But the film is certifiably schizophrenic in tone. Is it a hayseed riff on Faust? Is it a cautionary tale on greed? Is it an excuse to film golf scenes on some of the most beautiful courses in the U.S.? In the end, when a third act twist renders everything null and void and seriously strains anything mildly resembling reality, you stop pondering those questions, and end up just wondering how you could have spent that hour and a half differently. Perhaps on the front nine.