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Peter Bogdanovich
Tom Sizemore, Sarain Boylan, Carlos Diaz, George DiCenzo, Melissa DiMarco, Paul Fauteux, Edie Inksetter
Writing Credits:
Christian Darren

Because winning was everything ... he lost it all.

Golden Globe nominee Tom Sizemore stars as baseball's talented and troubled hit king Pete Rose in the ESPN original movie Hustle. Pete Rose earned the nickname "Charlie Hustle" for his aggressive style on and off the field. Ironically, the same mind-set that made him Major League Baseball's all-time hit leader ultimately led to his demise. Shortly after achieving baseball immortality, Rose headed down a dark road that would lead to lifetime banishment from the game he loved. Based on the facts set forth in the 1989 Dowd Report, Hustle chronicles the fascinating inside life of one of baseball's greatest players. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, this DVD is the hard-hitting story of an American icon's stunning fall from grace - complete with exclusive bonus footage and interviews from the ESPN archives.

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 4/5/2005

ABC Primetime Live Special
SportsCentury Interview with Pete Rose
• Bart Giamatti Press Conference
• Excerpts from Paul Janszen ESPN Interview
• Tommy Gioiosa on Pete Rose
• John Dowd Interview with ESPN
SportsCentury Interview with John Dowd


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Hu$tle (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 15, 2005)

Almost two decades after his retirement, former ballplayer Pete Rose remains a hot topic. While his feats on the playing field remain uncontested and impressive. With a record 4256 hits and an all-out style that brought the nickname “Charlie Hustle”, Rose was always a fan favorite.

That started to change in the late Eighties when the public learned of Rose’s gambling problems. He became a player/manager a couple of years before he retired in 1986 and he continued as manager of the Cincinnati Reds until 1989. Apparently Rose bet on almost anything he could. Horses, football, boxing - all of those would be fine with the powers-that-be at the Major League, but rumors abounded that Rose had gone a step further and bet on baseball. Ever since the ”Black Sox” scandal of 1919, gambling on baseball was the sport’s cardinal sin because it potentially impacted on the integrity of the games. If a player was found to have done so, one punishment resulted: permanent banishment from baseball.

In the midst of accusations, Rose refused to confess his sins. Instead, he worked out a voluntary expulsion from the game in exchange for silence. If he left on his own, the League wouldn’t formally reveal their findings.

Rose’s actions become the focus of a 2004 ESPN feature film called Hu$tle. In it, Tom Sizemore plays Rose as his story picks up October 1986, right at the end of Rose’s playing days. Rose meets Paul Janszen (Dash Mihok) for the first time and quickly befriends the young man. We get to know the kid along with body-builder Tommy Gioiosa (Paul Fauteux) who snorts coke and shoots steroids in his ass.

Janszen becomes Rose’s assistant and accompanies Pete to a convention appearance in New Jersey. He then becomes Rose’s constant companion and we see Pete’s betting excursions. These start with basketball and horses, and he gradually involves Paul as his go-between to handle the gambling grunt work for Rose.

As the 1987 baseball season progresses, Rose finds himself on the end of a losing streak, which puts him in a tight monetary bind. Actually, this mostly affects middleman Paul, since he’s the one who technically owes the money. This leads the bookies to put pressure on Rose to bet on baseball so they can earn some of the cash he’s lost. Rose agrees and quickly starts to gamble on his own squad as well.

A habitual liar, Pete tries to hide his activities, but team members start to become suspicious. Paul also runs into problems since he’s on the stick for Pete’s debts, though he doesn’t believe that Rose is using him. Matters intensify when Rose talks of throwing games to win bets. The movie follows the Rose/Janszen relationship as well as Pete’s deepening problem with both gambling and various authorities.

Actually, Hu$tle spends a lot of time with Janszen’s point of view. Perhaps the filmmakers thought he’d give the audience a better entry point and we’d identify more with a good-hearted schlub caught up in a hero’s lies than in the legend himself. That’s a sensible thought, but it doesn’t work.

The main problem is that we really don’t care about Janszen. We see how his involvement with Rose leads to his downfall but we don’t get a feel for the Janszen character. He’s little more than a naïve patsy, especially in the goofy way Mihok plays him. His story comes across in such a predictable and trite manner that we never develop any investment in Janszen, and his fate doesn’t intrigue us. The movie bizarrely decides to focus on Janszen almost exclusively during its second half, and this just bores us.

That leaves Rose as a minor subject of interest, but that’s tough when he eventually develops into a supporting role. He gets a very one-dimensional portrayal and comes across as nothing more than a lying, cheating jerk who cares about no one other than himself. He uses friends and family to his own ends and never displays any concern about this. I don’t doubt that Rose is a self-serving prick, but the movie could have done something to show why people liked him and were loyal to him.

The movie never does so. Sizemore’s performance doesn’t help. He gets down Rose’s shambling walk but doesn’t do anything else to accurately embody the baseball legend. His Rose lacks any lightness or charm. Instead, he’s intense to the point of almost seeming psychopathic. Even when scenes try to warm up the character, he comes across as nearly demonic. Sizemore’s insanely bad wigs make matters worse. Yeah, Pete always had crummy haircuts, but at least they looked like his real hair!

I also think the story engages in too much cheesy melodrama too much of the time. A lot of it comes across like something you’d see on Lifetime. Poor Paul gets trapped in a bad relationship with evil, manipulative Pete and has to find the courage to pull himself out of this hole. That’s not the focus we want from a story about Rose. Frankly, who gives a rat’s ass about Janszen’s side? I sure don’t, and that emphasis makes the film drag badly.

Honestly, the package feels like it all came with the real Janszen’s approval. It does exceedingly little to cast him in a bad light. Even when he deals steroids, he comes across like a victim with no choice in the matter. The movie certainly tries hard to paint him as the innocent pawn of nasty ol’ Pete and totally ignores any personal responsibility he should bear.

It’s a sickeningly one-dimensional portrayal, especially since it slants things so far toward the Janszen character. No, I don’t want to see a film that makes excuses for Rose, but I’d like a little more balance. Hu$tle often feels like a vendetta as it viciously attacks Rose.

The inclusion of Pete’s 2004 admission that he bet on baseball doesn’t help. While this could appear simply to add a capper on the story, instead it feels cruel and mean-spirited, kind of a smug “I told you so” moment. Actually, the movie almost attempts some sympathy for Rose in a few minutes that precede this ending, but the real-life clip of Pete totally erases those.

Ultimately, Hu$tle fails not just because of its one-sided nature or its nasty attitude. It’s also simply not a well-made movie. It meanders around without much focus, and it zips through the investigations like it has to catch a train. Those should be the most compelling moments, not the pointless shots of a soul-searching sap. Clearly there’s a strong story behind Hu$tle, as Rose’s downfall is something that could become a real grabber. Unfortunately, Hu$tle is a dud.

The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Hu$tle appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Unfortunately, that clearly wasn’t the film’s original dimensions. During the opening credits, some letters got clipped off the sides, and the movie looked cramped and cropped from start to finish.

Even if I ignored the bad chop job, the transfer of Hu$tle had problems. Since most of the movie focused on close-ups, the majority of it came across as fairly well-defined. However, shots that broadened out from there seemed less solid. Some of the wider images presented moderately weak delineation and clarity. Jagged edges popped up with some frequency, and I also noticed examples of light shimmering and edge enhancement.

As for source flaws, grain was a significant problem. The majority of the flick showed moderate to heavy grain, and other defects showed up at times. I noticed a fair number of specks and marks throughout the film.

Colors generally looked fine. The hues never became terrifically vivid or dynamic, but they only occasionally came across as a bit bland or muddy. For the most part, the tones appeared clear and accurate. Black levels were a little thin but usually seemed acceptably deep. Low-light images were a bit iffier, as they usually looked somewhat dense. Enough of the image looked good to ensure a “C-“, but it was a pretty lackluster presentation.

At least the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Hu$tle worked pretty well. There’s not a lot to the soundfield, but it opened up matters effectively when necessary. A chatty flick, things stayed fairly monaural at times. However, the soundfield turned more engaging when it got the chance. For instance, shots at ballparks or racetracks demonstrated a good sense of atmosphere and used all five channels to create a reasonably convincing feel for things. Music showed solid stereo delineation and the overall impression left by the soundfield was positive if usually restrained.

No issues connected to audio quality occurred. Speech was clean and distinctive, and I saw no signs of brittleness. From the opening strains of Springsteen’s “Glory Days” through the score, the music was always nicely lively and dynamic. Effects didn’t play a major role, but those elements came across as concise and well-developed. Some decent bass response popped up along the way as well. Overall, the soundtrack functioned just fine for this sort of movie.

Hu$tle comes with a surprisingly long list of extras. We start with the January 8, 2004 segment of ABC Primetime Live with Charlie Gibson. This 12-minute and 37-second piece offers the feature about Pete Rose in which the player finally admitted he bet on baseball. Created to promote Rose’s tell-all book, we also hear from former commissioner Fay Vincent, sportswriter Michael Sokolov, ballplayer Mike Schmidt, and Rose accomplice Tommy Gioiosa. The program takes a look at Rose’s actions and his overall status. It’s a tight little examination of the issues and sums things up well.

An archival piece, the August 24, 1989 Bart Giamatti Press Conference fills six minutes and 24 seconds. This is the event at which the then-commissioner discussed Rose’s lifetime ban from the game. We get a quick glimpse of a re-enactment in Hu$tle itself, so it’s cool to watch the actual clip in its entirety, or most of it, at least; the segment ends with Giamatti’s famous proclamation of his belief in regard to Rose’s guilt.

A 1990 interview with Tommy Gioiosa on Pete Rose runs 97 seconds. The shaggy-haired lunk spills the beans about what Rose did and didn’t do. There’s nothing revelatory here, but it’s a decent inclusion for archival purposes.

Next comes a July 16, 1999 ESPN Classic SportsCentury Interview with John Dowd. It goes for nine minutes as the man who investigated Rose for MLB discusses his work and the events connected to the information. This show offers a solid glimpse behind the scenes and includes good information about Rose’s actions. For example, we learn the one circumstance under which Rose wouldn’t bet on the Reds.

The ESPN Classic SportsCentury Interview with Pete Rose comes from June 13, 1998 and takes up 18 minutes and 17 seconds. Back in the days when Rose persistently denied that he bet on baseball, he lies up and down throughout this segment. An amazing piece of double-talk, Rose dances all around things and finds odd interpretations of justifications to explain his side of thing. Of course, all of his comments became moot when Rose finally admitted what he did, but as a look at Pete’s skewed side of things, it’s fascinating.

Heading back to August 9, 1989, we get two minutes and 54 seconds of excerpts from Paul Janszen Interview with ESPN. The movie’s focal point chats about his interactions with Rose and the events that occurred. As with the Gioiosa clip, this one lacks much meat, but it’s good to put a real face with the person.

Finally, the clips end with a 77-second John Dowd Interview with ESPN from December 18, 2002. The investigator offers a brief recap of things, and there’s not much of interest here.

The DVD opens with an ad for Playmakers. That promo also appears in the Sneak Peeks domain.

Absurdly biased and mean-spirited, I don’t know how I could have liked Hu$tle under the best of circumstances. Unfortunately, this cheap and crass exploitation film also fails to become anything that vaguely resembles a competently made movie. Badly written, slow-paced and asinine, it totally mishandles a good story. The DVD presents bland and muddy visuals plus decent but unexceptional sound. As for the extras, we get a nice collection of archival elements connected to the Rose situation. Too bad the movie itself is so weak.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.1111 Stars Number of Votes: 9
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