Brad Pitt essays his best loveable rogue as Billy Beane, manager of baseball’s perennial outsiders the Oakland Athletics, who takes a punt on a statistical system of recruiting players devised by ball-obsessed Yale graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). Money-men sneer, commentators scoff and fans moan, but as the season progresses this odd couple find themselves sitting on an unprecedented winning streak.
For viewers unfamiliar with the game, the constant discussion of ‘bunts’, ‘walks’ and ‘flies’, coupled with some intentionally impenetrable statistics chat, renders chunks of ‘Moneyball’ incomprehensible. But Sorkin’s typically prickly, epithet-peppered script, plus winning turns from the entire cast, make for a consistently pleasurable watch.
The problem is one of focus: there are often too many characters to keep track of (Philip Seymour Hoffman is underused as the team’s irascible coach), and while the first two acts deliver one-liners and sporting action in abundance, a muted home stretch is bold but unsatisfying, undermining much of what went before. Nonetheless, as an example of smarter-than-average Hollywood fare – and a sly dig at modern sporting politics – ‘Moneyball’ has all the key bases covered.