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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie (2002)

‘Most people came to college for an education. I came for a life.”
- Benny (David Krumholtz)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: December 15, 2002

Stars: David Krumholtz, jennifer Morrison
Other Stars: Tory Kittles, Alex Rocco, Nick Turturro
Director: Ernest Dickerson

Manufacturer: DVDl
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content and drug use
Run Time: 01h:27m:54s
Release Date: December 17, 2002
UPC: 024543051305
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-B+B B+

DVD Review

The problem with being on top of the world is that sooner or later there is nowhere to go but down. This is an inevitable truth, but for Benny Silman, the path taken to the top was certainly worth the eventual fall from grace that led to a four year prison sentence. The filmed version of Benny's life story, Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie, is a mildly entertaining look at Benny's entrepreneurial venture into the world of sports gambling as well as his subsequent legal troubles.

When Benny Silman (Krumholtz) moved from New York to Arizona State University, he was just another college freshman looking to make his way to graduation. A chance encounter with a local bookie named Troy (LeGros) leads Benny to the promised land, as he soon begins to makes bets for Troy, pulling in nearly a thousand dollars a week. Soon though, Benny begins to realize that he can make more money with his own bookmaking business and a success story is born. In little time, Benny is making enough money for a dream apartment and Callie (Morisson), a beautiful coed, is taken by his abundant charm. Just as things are going perfectly, an ASU basketball player named Stevin "Hedake" Smith (Kittles) proposes an irresistible offer to Benny: Let Hedake ensure that his team covers the spread and he and Benny will share the winnings. The deal works well for awhile, but eventually too many hands in the cookie jar lead to jealousy and selfishness—and jail time.

I vividly remember the events that transpired in 1994 at the Arizona State campus, and while Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie does devote a significant portion of its running time to the incident, it is not enough. The events that transpire in the point-shaving scandal are handled in such a hurried manner that the overall message of the film feels weak to a fault. Adding to this are the closing moments that feature the real Benny Silman, lecturing the viewer on the downsides of sports gambling and how his life has been wrecked as a result of his actions. Ok, this is well and good, but why use a three-minute PSA to reverse what is essentially a ninety-minute feature on the fun afforded by being a bookie?

Still, the film is entertaining in its style and performances. Director Ernest Dickerson (formerly Spike Lee's cinematographer) uses a kinetic pace to liven up the film; the quick editing and frenetic pacing provide a vibrant energy. The script by Jason Keller is sharply written, with plenty of characters that appear larger than life when compared to Benny, but this is also a weakness. Benny is written as a character who understands his actions and must live with the consequences. As a result, this is rare story in that the viewer does not feel sympathy for Benny when his life comes crashing down. The downside is that the script has made Benny's persona a caricature. The script has Krumholtz going from scene to scene sounding like Eminem rather than the articulate, real life Silman that we see at both the end of the film and in the extra features on the DVD.

Krumholtz, who is becoming a better actor in each picture I see him in, does a praiseworthy job as Benny, exhibiting the necessary charm needed to make Benny a somewhat likeable character. The remainder of the cast does an adequate job, though no one actor stands above another in terms of quality.

As a side note, the locations doubling for Arizona State University are actually found on the campus of California State—Northridge.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image, Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie looks fine, though it is certainly not reference quality. Colors are perfectly realized with no bleeding apparent throughout, including several sequences that feature bright neon signs, often the death knell of a transfer. Sharpness and detail are lacking, seemingly due to a hazy look to the image in several scenes. I noticed no edge enhancement to speak of. Overall, this is a very average transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio is a dialogue-based, Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that certainly won't win points for creativity, yet it gets the job done. Dialogue is crisp throughout with no distortion, while the surround speakers enjoy a nice amount of exercise with ambient sounds and the musical score.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring High Crimes, Super Troopers
2 TV Spots/Teasers
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Ernest Dickerson, Benny Silman, David Krumholtz, and Kevin Messick
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: A commentary by actor David Krumholtz, Benny Silman, producer Kevin Messick, and director Ernest Dickerson leads off an impressive list of extra features. The commentary is very entertaining as well as informative, as the real Silman offers his insights into the differences between the fictional telling of his story and the real life events. Krumholtz offers nice tidbits about his character while Dickerson has a great deal to discuss in terms of style and offers stories about making the film. This is a fun, enjoyable commentary that lends a lot to the finished film; I enjoyed the feature more after having listened to the background provided.

Two featurettes are informative, yet they are essentially repetitive given that you have already seen what they are talking about in the film. NCAA Sports Wagering Video runs nearly five minutes and features Benny Silman explaining what landed him in prison and how his life changed. The Real Bookie: Benny Tells His Story is a videotaped short, which features Silman explaining to the camera in detail the events portrayed in the film. Again, this is informative, but also a rehash of what is seen in the film.

Two television spots are included, as are trailers for Super Troopers and High Crimes.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

For light entertainment, you could do a lot worse than Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie, but the downside is that you can do a lot better. The extra features on this new DVD from Fox are very informative, which is a nice change from the standard promotional fluff seen on many releases these days. As a rental, this would be a wise choice.

 


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