Arriving on theater screens armed with laudatory testimonials by such golfing legends as Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and Tom Watson, Terry Jastrow‘s golfing-themed, lighthearted thriller boasts an undeniable authenticity. Starring Jeremy Sumpter, whose true-life golfing skills are on ample display, and directed and scripted by seven-time Emmy Award-winning television sports director Terry Jastrow, an accomplished player himself, The Squeeze is bound to appeal to aficionados of the sport. But despite the fact that it’s (loosely) based on a true story, it fares less well in dramatic terms.
Sumpter (Friday Night Lights) plays the central role of twenty-two-year old Augie, who in the film’s early moments is seen winning a local golf championship and breaking his own course record in the small rural town in which he lives. His success attracts the attention of a dapper Southern professional gambler, the piquantly named Riverboat (Chris McDonald, hitting the links again after Happy Gilmore) and his extravagantly bejeweled wife, Jessie (Katherine LaNasa).
Despite his dream of someday competing in the U.S. Open, Augie, desperate to shore up his financially struggling parents, agrees to Riverboat’s proposition that he team up with him to play in a series of high-stakes games, much to his beautiful girlfriend Natalie’s (Jillian Murphy) dismay.
The trio eventually makes their way to Las Vegas — Steve Wynn‘s Wynn Las Vegas resort receives prominent product placement — where they become embroiled with a notorious gangster sporting the equally colorful name “Jimmy Diamonds” (Michael Nouri). The stakes keep getting higher until Augie gets set up in million dollar match and finds himself in the titular situation, with Jimmy threatening his life if he wins and Riverboat promising the same if he loses.
The film’s debt to such previous con-artist-themed flicks as The Sting is all too evident, especially when that movie’s ragtime theme music is prominently featured in the background. Despite his small town innocence, Augie eventually proves more than a match for his criminal-minded cohorts.
Read More ‘Child 44’: Film Review
Never managing to find a consistent tone in its uneasy blending of comedy and suspense, The Squeeze emerges as little more than a minor diversion. But it’s reasonably engaging throughout, with Sumpter proving an ingratiating protagonist and McDonald and Nouri providing their usual solid supporting turns. Fans of the sport will certainly appreciate the well-photographed athletics on display, including an entertaining sequence depicting a freewheeling round of cross-country golf, but The Squeeze never really manages to get out of the cinematic rough.
Production: JAM Films
Cast: Jeremy Sumpter, Christopher McDonald, Katherine LaNasa, Jillian Murray, Michael Nouri, David O’Donnell
Director/screenwriter: Terry Jastrow
Producers: Anne Archer, Brian McCormack, Michael Doven, George Parra
Executive producers: Brian McCormack, Simon Horsman, Sean Morrison, Milton Kim
Director of photography: Taron Lexton
Editors: Eric Treiber, Alexa Vier
Costume designer: Ellen Falguiere
Composer: Michael D. Simon
Casting: Craig Fincannon, Mary Jo Slater
Not rated, 95 min.