"Bookies" is a pretty cool movie in a lot of ways. The subject matter - three college students decide to become bookies to take advantage of their classmates' sports-betting joneses - is intriguing, and even though I don't know much about sports betting, the plot seemed mostly plausible to me, with maybe a few details that stretched credulity a little. The involvement of the Mafia seemed really far-fetched to me though - it's obviously been put into the story to create suspense and a sense of danger, but the ultimate resolution of the bad situation that develops is handled by Mark Illsley, the director, in a surprisingly low-key way that seems very anticlimactic after everything leading up to it. Overall the direction is good though, with lots of imaginative camera work and fast editing - the best sequence rapidly cuts back and forth between two simultaneous story events: a high-intensity foosball game being played by Nick Stahl and Rachael Leigh Cook, and Johnny Galecki's revenge-motivated break-in to an off-campus apartment and his subsequent escape while being chased by the three occupants. The music score is great, weaving seamlessly in and out of songs and textures which notch up the jittery, increasingly-on-edge feel of the story. The dialogue, for the most part, ranges from serviceable to good. The performances are a mixed bag. Johnny Galecki is great - if you only know him as sweet, mopey "David" from "Roseanne", you may be surprised at his reckless, short-tempered, foul-mouthed, coke-snorting character here, but he pulls it off with great aplomb. Nick Stahl is fine as the ostensible lead, but a bit bland - and his voice-overs are deadly and would have been better left out - they're completely unnecessary, since they only tell us stuff that we're seeing anyway. Lukas Haas and Rachael Leigh Cook are kind of nowhere - they don't do anything particularly interesting with their characters; and David Proval and John Diehl are just AWFUL as the Mafia goombas, employing every bad-actor-playing-a-mob-guy cliche in the book. Perhaps they were directed that way by Illsley; whatever the reason, their scenes are excruciating and almost stop the movie dead (and the "ominous" music underneath just makes their characterizations even more laughable).
"Bookies" is a pleasant enough film to see once, but it's not one that I have a desire to see again - it's diverting and technically well-done for the most part, but it didn't leave me with any particular message or feeling when it was over, and I can't honestly say that I really LIKED any of the characters. I'd say rent, don't buy.