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Review: Smart money’s on ‘Inside Game,’ a fact-based tale of friends and NBA betting scandal

Lindsey Morgan and Scott Wolf in the movie ‘Inside Game’
Lindsey Morgan and Scott Wolf in the movie “Inside Game.”
(Raw Milk and iDreamMachine)

Set against the backdrop of 2007’s NBA betting scandal, “Inside Game” ups the ante with an engaging ensemble headed by Will Sasso, Scott Wolf and Eric Mabius.

Buddies since childhood, bookie James “Baba” Battista (Sasso), NBA referee Tim Donaghy (Mabius) and charismatic, drug-dealing Tommy Martino (Wolf) find themselves living the dream in Philadelphia when they hatch a wagering scheme leveraged by insider information provided through Donaghy’s locker room proximity to coaches and injured players.

With greed precipitously raising the stakes as the FBI closes in through an unrelated mob investigation, it’s inevitable that the can’t-miss proposition soon begins spiraling out of control, leading to the conviction of all three.

The script by TV writer Andy Callahan (“Taken,” “Lethal Weapon”) and direction by Randall Batinkoff efficiently checks off the requisite true crime drama tropes, but the smart money is on the strong performances of the cast, particularly Sasso’s brow-mopping, pill-popping mastermind.

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Also impressive is Betsy Beutler as his fiercely protective wife, who wields her South Philly accent like a take-no-prisoners weapon, and veteran character actor Michael O’Keefe as Donaghy’s critical dad.

Although the film dutifully follows a familiar path to the courtroom, along the way, it serves as a solid demonstration of the fissures that can form when the bonds of friendship are tested against those of familial loyalty.

‘Inside Game’
Rated: R, for language and drug use throughout, and some sexual content

Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Playing: Starts Nov. 1, in limited release


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