Inside Game is a narrative feature that revisits the NBA betting scandal that came to light in 2007 and ended Tim Donaghy’s career as an NBA referee.
Prior to becoming an NBA referee, Tim Donaghy (Eric Mabius) had been childhood friends with Tommy Martino (Scott Wolf) and Baba Battista (Will Sasso). When they reconnect at a later point in life, they’re all at different points in their careers. Donaghy followed his father’s footsteps and became a ref. Battista was working as a “mover” in the sports betting world. Meanwhile, Martino was a drug dealer. It’s a recipe for disaster.
When they do meet up and come up with a plan to bring in the dough, it’s only a matter of time before somebody else starts to catch on. In this case, the FBI and Tim’s father (Michael O’Keefe) catch on. When the same ref is working every game in question, you know something is up. Here’s the thing though: Tim appears to be the consummate professional when on the job. Unless you were in the know, you would have no idea that he was helping his friends make some big money.
Most of us are familiar with the NBA side of things much less the FBI investigation that led to this discovery. Andy Callahan’s script tells the story from looking at a perspective with the focus on the three friends. The scandal is right up there with Lance Armstrong, Pete Rose, and the Black Sox. However, the film doesn’t come off as effective in wanting to tell the trio’s story.
Even though it’s based on a true story, it is also a film that struggles to keep one’s attention. Maybe this is how ingrained that comic book films are on our culture to the point that anything else can be a struggle to watch. I’m not saying this is entirely true but on some days, it certainly feels like it. The other thing is that this the story being told in this film is one that works much better in documentary form. A documentary would also have been able to utilize the many news clips over the years. Perhaps the only positive to certainly come out of this film is Will Sasso turning in a solid performance. Overall, Inside Game much less a sports film than it is a crime drama.
At the end of the day, the events that transpire in Inside Game are better told as a documentary.
DIRECTOR: Randall Batinkoff
SCREENWRITER: Andy Callahan
CAST: Scott Wolf, Eric Mabius, Michael O’Keefe, Betsey Beutler, with Lindsey Morgan and Will Sasso