|Jeremy Sumpter, Jillian Murray, |
and Terry Jastrow (seated)
Here's the plot in a nutshell: Young muni golf phenom who can't lose becomes the stakes horse for a high-rolling gambler who rides him to Las Vegas to play in a million-dollar match. The Squeeze happens the night before the match, when the small-town phenom is threatened with death by either side, one if he wins, the other if he loses.
I saw the movie in a preview and found it fun, exciting, and full of choice bits. It's not Tin Cup, but it's not Bagger Vance, either (thank goodness). What really distinguishes it from other golf movies is that the players are really players. They know which end of the club to hold and how to swing it, which is more than you can say about just about any other golf movie ever released. The golf sequences -- and there are many good ones -- are believable and a pleasure to watch.
The verisimilitude is in large part a function of the director's background as a senior producer/director of golf for ABC Sports for 22 years. Terry Jastrow conceived and wrote the story based on what he says is the true story of Keith Flatt, which he heard over the dinner table one night. Also on the production team was Jastrow's wife, Anne Archer, whom you might remember as Michael Douglas' wife in Fatal Attraction, Michael Doven, whose credits as an associate producer include Mission Impossible II, and many others with substantial film credentials.
Golf is at the center of the story, but the characters are what make it fun. Twenty-two-year-old Augie Baccas (Jeremy Sumpter) is the young phenom whose fractured family life and need for ready cash enable the smooth-talking gambler, aka Riverboat, to persuade him to give up dreams of playing in the US Open for a career hustling golfers with more money than sense. Riverboat is played by Chris McDonald, who played a similarly smarmy bad guy, Shooter McGavin, in Happy Gilmore.
Augie's longtime sweetheart, Natalie (Jillian Murray), is against the deal, of course, but comes through for him in the end. Las Vegas gambler Jimmy Diamonds (Michael Nouri) looks the part and plays it better. The best character in the whole flick, though, is Riverboat's over-the-top wife, Jessie, played by Katherine LaNasa. She delivers the cleverest double entendres as well as the most flamboyant strut you'll ever see on screen.
The story arc is rather predictable, but there are enough sidebars and minor characters to make it worthwhile to pay attention. Augie struggles with his conscience in the beginning, but greed and/or need wins out and he plays in ever-larger matches set up by Riverboat until all the available sheep are fleeced and they move to the really big money games in Las Vegas. There, Riverboat sets up Jimmy Diamond for the coup de grace in a poker game and pits Augie against the reigning "US Champion" (I suspect the USGA wasn't crazy about allowing use of the term "US Amateur Champion" in this context) at Wynn Las Vegas.
The night before the match, Augie has another confrontation with his conscience, but overcomes it with vodka and cranberry juice. That's when the threats come from Jimmy Diamonds and Riverboat. Heads you win, tails you lose, but in either case, you die. Not the kind of quandary that makes for happy swing thoughts on the first tee. The story arc is predictable but the ending isn't, so I won't offer any spoilers. Trust me, though, it's worth hanging around for.
Reaction from other early screeners has been very positive. Here are a few comments:
Jack Nicklaus: "I watched The Squeeze with Barbara and really enjoyed it. It’s a fun movie that tells an interesting story, and the golf elements are so real you actually believe it could happen."
Phil Mickelson: "The Squeeze is the best golf movie ever because it’s so authentic. It hooks you in the beginning and stays interesting and entertaining right to the end. I’m looking forward to seeing it
Tom Watson: "The Squeeze depicts actors (lead actor Jeremy Sumpter in particular) who are truly believable as pro quality golfers. Director Jastrow’s true understanding of the game (with 22 years directing sports, in particular golf on ABC Television) injects reality into the scenes with a stream of golf humor that golfers will find both familiar and believable, which are sadly lacking in all previous golf movies. With his athletic swing, Sumpter made this entertaining tale believable from the start. The catalyst for the film is the character “Riverboat”, whose role is wonderfully played by Christopher McDonald. His guile and salesmanship together make for an intriguing surprise ending. The Squeeze is indeed an enjoyable adventure into golf and big time gambling."
Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf