Sayles tells the story of the 1919 World Series baseball scandal as an allegory of the way the uneducated poor can be manipulated, corrupted and destroyed by the rich and powerful. The Chicago White Sox were tempted, thanks to the paltry salaries paid by their penny-pinching boss, to take bribes from a group of gambling hoodlums (Arnold Rothstein included) in return for throwing the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. The affair rocked America; and Sayles' movie, sticking close to the known facts, reflects the disillusionment that came with the realisation that these heroic figures were merely weak, corruptible humans. At the same time, however, his use of a near-legendary story to comment on the economic and social factors which made such corruption possible pushes him into a black -and-white polarisation of the characters which is only partly redeemed by the overall excellence of the acting. Given the inevitably knotty plotting, the message is oddly unrevealing, although the film features more than enough intelligently, wittily scripted moments to remain a fascinating insight into a crucial episode in the souring of that old American Dream.
Cast and crew