THE SQUEEZE

(ARC ENTERTAINMENT/JAM FILMS (95 minutes; Rated PG-13); 2015)

The Squeeze

Can I tell you guys something? I don’t like golf. Never have and, considering my curmudgeon-like obstinacy and advanced years, probably never will. Everything about the sport (at least ’til Tiger came along… and, maybe, John Daly before him) is too quiet, too polite! I’ve only ever played the game (rather accurately dubbed by my father, “Cow Pasture Pool”) once. I shot a 64… I quit after the first hole. Here’s another little secret: I don’t like golf movies; except, of course, CADDYSHACK (and, yeah… I’ll even throw CADDYSHACK II in there, as well). Until now. THE SQUEEZE is more of a caper movie or a gangster movie but, with golf as the central element behind all of the intrigue and death threats, I think we can fairly safely call it a “golf movie.”

THE SQUEEZE (Jeremy Sumpter) (production stills)

THE SQUEEZE (Jeremy Sumpter) (publicity stills)

Most “based on actual events” stories are only marginally based on those events; THE SQUEEZE is no exception. Jeremy Sumpter (who was apparently in a television show called FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS… I’m sure the little girls know the one I’m talking about) plays golf savant Augie Baccas, a character loosely based on a guy named Keith Flatt. Baccas – like Flatt – is the Meadowlark Lemon of his small town’s golf club, winning a one day tournament by a course record fifteen shots. The flick begins, as most do, with Augie indulging in a game of cross country extreme golf with his friends, including his girlfriend, Natalie (played by Jillian Murray, whose resume includes the latest installment of the CABIN FEVER horror franchise). With Augie bemoaning his financial state and his inability to make a better life for his mother and little sister (all three are under the thumb of the abusive Baccas patriarch), golf and Natalie are his only escapes; he dreams of joining the PGA Tour and qualifying for the US Open.

THE SQUEEZE (Jillian Murray, Christopher McDonald, Jeremy Sumpter) (publicity stll)

THE SQUEEZE (Jillian Murray, Christopher McDonald, Jeremy Sumpter) (publicity stll)

After a particularly brutal confrontation with his father, Augie is offered a way to make enough money to remove his family from his drunken lout of a father. That offer comes from a gambler named Riverboat (a sleazy, almost endearing character portrayed by Christopher McDonald) who, driving cross country to Las Vegas for a poker tournament, after hearing a report of Augie’s phenomenal feat on the local radio station, changes course to locate the young man to convince him to come to Vegas and use his talents in high-stakes matches against unsuspecting golfers. Along for the ride is Riverboat’s high-maintenance wife, Jessie (Katherine LaNasa), whose provocative dress and coyly flirtatious demeanor are so distracting to opponents that she is as important to Riverboat’s game plan as are his gambling skills. Naturally, Natalie is concerned and angered that Augie would compromise his reputation and integrity for a quick buck, earned in a rather dubious fashion under the tutelage of an obvious shyster. She has Augie leaning toward turning down the offer until Riverboat waves a stack of hundred dollar bills under his nose. The decision made, Augie asks Natalie to look after his sister and mother and, though she refuses to speak to him, she does agree to keep an eye on his family.

THE SQUEEZE (Jeremy Sumpter, Jillian Murray, Christopher McDonald) (publicity still)

THE SQUEEZE (Jeremy Sumpter, Jillian Murray, Christopher McDonald) (publicity still)

Working their way to Las Vegas, Augie, Riverboat and Jessie play the best of the best at every course along the way, amassing a nice little nest egg for the ultimate Vegas fleecing: Riverboat plans to engage notorious card sharp and mid-level gangster Jimmy Diamonds (Micahel Nouri) in a poker game. After winning big, Riverboat suggests a golf match between Augie and Diamonds, giving the latter a chance to win his money back. Diamonds knows a ringer when he sees one and counters with a ringer of his own, reigning NCAA champion Aaron Bolt (Jason Dohring, who was in some movie about some television series that I never watched), who has made his own deal with a much more violent devil. Diamonds sets Augie up and, breaking in to his hotel room, tells Augie that if he does not lose the next day’s million dollar round to Bolt, he will end up in the deep end of a swimming pool with lead weights tied to his ankles. When Augie tries to get out of his deal with Riverboat, the gambler tells him in no uncertain terms that if he does not WIN the million dollar challenge, HE will kill him. With Augie caught between a rock and very hard place, the final third of the movie features enough twists and turns and all-out action (as well as some questions best left unanswered) to make THE SQUEEZE one cool thrill ride of a caper flick.

THE SQUEEZE (Christopher McDonald; Katherine LaNasa) (publicity stills)

THE SQUEEZE (Christopher McDonald; Katherine LaNasa) (publicity stills)

The attention to detail in the golf sequences is amazing. Sumpter (and, I understand, Dohring, as well) can really play and most of their golf shots – even the trick shots – are real and were generally first takes. Sumpter, in fact, could probably qualify for a spot on the Tour. Of course, the main reason that everything looks so legitimate is because writer/producer/director Terry Jastrow was a junior champion himself and actually caddied for Arnold Palmer; he also became a producer at ABC Sports at the age of 22, winning seven Emmy Awards for his groundbreaking golf coverage. The fact that he’s married to actress Anne Archer is merely a bonus as regards THE SQUEEZE. The family, relationship, gambling and action sequences range from stilted to over-the-top, though, honestly, a couple of the characters call for an over-the-top performance (particularly Jessie and, to a lesser extent, Riverboat); Sumpter’s portrayal of Augie is the most grounded and believable but, overall, the cast does a good job.

THE SQUEEZE (Michael Nouri) (publicity still)

THE SQUEEZE (Michael Nouri) (publicity still)

I’ve seen THE SQUEEZE reviewed as a “Faith-based” production and, I suppose, it does have certain elements that could cause it to be considered a morality play of sorts. However, there are also some dirty, gritty elements (coarse language, some drug use and sexual situations, not to mention the violence) that would probably exclude it from most “Family” movie lists. Having said that, parents shouldn’t necessarily shy away from making it a family movie night option; I wouldn’t be too concerned about allowing a twelve year old to watch it. The film would also make a great date night offering for Mom and Dad. If the actual game of golf was more like a cross between this flick and CADDYSHACK, I might actually find myself a bit more interested in it.


BEYOND THE TROPHY

(ARC ENTERTAINMENT/NEW FILMS INTERNATIONAL (99 minutes/Rated R); 2014)

BEYOND THE TROPHY

BEYOND THE TROPHY is certainly an enjoyable roller coaster ride of a flick, kinda like GOODFELLAS or THE GODFATHER filtered through that bizarre Woody Allen mockumentary, TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN and THE DUKES OF HAZZARD (the TV show, not that stupid movie). Okay… I know that may make the movie sound like an inept free-for-all, with good-intentioned “bad guys” and imbecilic and boorishly corrupt police and, yeah, there is a bit of that going on but, I think it’s more of the general vibe of the film than an actual plot description (although, at one point, one of the characters does say, “I’m told that you have an offer that I cannot refuse”). It is, I suppose, a cautionary tale about power and how far a man will go to obtain that elusive “trophy.”

BEYOND THE TROPHY (Michael Madsen) (publicity still)

BEYOND THE TROPHY (Michael Madsen) (publicity still)

The story begins at the end, with the narrator (Cole Lambert, greasily played by Michael Madsen, the kingpin of the Los Angeles mob) explaining that the little scenario was actually set in motion seven months earlier. Flash back those seven months and, after he introduces himself and his chief rivalas, Lambert intones, “Hey, welcome to Los Angeles, gangster capitol of the Western world. And, I can prove it. Alright, so this is what happened, best as I remember it. This is based on actual events, so… the names and identities have all been changed… to protect the guilty, to protect the innocent or, to protect me.” And so begins the chronicle of a seven month downward spiral of a good cop slowly going bad.

BEYOND THE TROPHY (Stephen Cloud) (publicity still)

BEYOND THE TROPHY (Stephen Cloud) (publicity still)

What follows is a confounding, semi-circular tale of lies, deceit, shady business dealings, gangsters (Lambert’s LA faction and a Las Vegas faction run by Gino, played by Robert Miano), mobsters (of the Russian and Cuban varieties), crooked cops, young idealistic cops, undercover cops, strippers, underage strippers, undercover strippers, car chases, shoot outs and – most confusing of all – cops double-crossing other cops who are busy double-crossing the bad guys who are double-crossing the cops so that they can double-cross the other bad guys who are double-crossing… I think you get the idea. You gotta have uninterrupted time (a little over 90 minutes) to watch BEYOND THE TROPHY or you will never be able to keep all of the underhanded dealings straight in your head. Situations and partners change so quickly that even the slightest distraction will have you lost in the nether-regions of some obscure sub-plot. But, then, that’s half the fun of watching. Most of the characters are so sleazy, you may spend some gray matter thinking up a cool demise for each.

BEYOND THE TROPHY (Stephen Cloud and Michael Masini) (publicity still)

BEYOND THE TROPHY (Stephen Cloud and Michael Masini) (publicity still)

As undercover police officers Danny (Michael Masini) and Terry (Stephen Cloud) are outed to their crime “bosses,” Gino and Cole are forced to team up, taking down the Russian mob czar and several of their own double-dealing underlings in an attempt to get at the cops. In the middle of all of this is Gino’s one true love, Angela (Ali Costello), who he presents to Danny in an effort to get the semi-crooked cop to tip his hand. Of course, as is often the case, Angela and Danny fall for each other, effectively adding another double-cross to the double-cross attempted by Gino. The Russian mob, having been infiltrated by Terry (he’s married to the bosses niece) and Officer Chastity Bachman (Brooke Newton), the daughter of Detective Sergeant Bachman (Eric Roberts), who may or may not be on the take for one or more of the criminal elements involved. By the end of the movie, there is one man left standing, with a surprise ending that – given the backstabbing throughout – no one will see coming (at least, I didn’t).

BEYOND THE TROPHY (Eric Roberts) (publicity still)

BEYOND THE TROPHY (Eric Roberts) (publicity still)

Bottom line for BEYOND THE TROPHY: I wasn’t sure after the first 10 minutes or so if I would even make it through the whole thing. However, I stuck with it and glad I did. The story is an ingenious take on the gangster genre and is thoroughly entertaining. Just don’t get distracted while you’re watching!