When Benny Silman left Brooklyn for Arizona State University, he felt like he was stepping into a Coppertone commercial. The Sun, the beautiful girls?life was good. Once he discovered the bright lights of Vegas and the adrenaline rush of gambling, things got even better. Soon he was the "campus bookie" making good cash and having a blast with his buddies. It wasn't until he began to fix basketball games that his high stakes life began to spin out of control. This is the real-life story of the 1994 Arizona State University point-shaving scandal that rocked the NCAA.
Based on actual events, Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie
plays like a frat-house blend of Casino
. Originally broadcast on FX, it's got the sanitized veneer of a TV movie, but it's an honest, R-rated appraisal of Bennie Silman, a Brooklyn-born student at Arizona State University who reaped--and lost--a fortune in 1994 by fixing basketball games with the help of star player Stevin "Hedake" Smith. Perfectly cast as Silman, the always-interesting David Krumholtz ("Bernard" from the Santa Clause
movies) speaks to the camera, inviting us into his first-person account of money, girls, and the Mafia. It's a party animal's fantasy until the bloody-nosed climax, directed with edgy energy, but not enough substance, by Ernest R. Dickerson (who fared marginally better with his Showtime film Our America
). Krumholtz and Tory Kittles (as Smith) make this a compelling enterprise, however, and the real Bennie Silman appears in a coda that roots the movie in harsh, cautionary reality. --Jeff Shannon