Bottom of the 9th, directed by Raymond de Felitta and starring Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike) and Sofía Vergara (Modern Family), is a new sports drama about an underdog who beats the odds to achieve success. The film tells the story of a once-buzzed-about baseball player who, recently released from prison after serving seventeen years, attempts to make a comeback and return to his former glory.
Perhaps the biggest issue with this movie is that its story is so generic, and as a result, the film feels exhaustingly slow at times. Although the underdog arc is heavily trodden ground for a reason — audiences find that type of story to be extremely inspiring — this movie does very little to make it stand out among the crowd of other movies just like this you have already seen.
Additionally, the film doesn’t use its subplots to the best of its abilities. In addition to the main plot about the protagonist trying to make his way back into the big leagues, the movie features storylines about him reconnecting with an old flame and taking a younger, arrogant player under his wing. The latter particularly shows potential to add a bit of extra flair to the film, but isn’t explored effectively.
The movie also doesn’t offer much new thematically, either. The core theme of this film is that a person should not be defined by a single mistake they made in the past, and while this is a noble and important message, there is little chance that this movie reaches the audience to which it would need to speak to be effective.
The reason that this film works to a small extent is that the character development is mostly compelling. Although the protagonist, Sonny Stano, is relatively archetypal, he is a likable Byronic hero who is easy to get behind. He is an unconventional underdog in that he already had success and lost it, and as such, this is a slight twist on the character arc. In addition to being the underdog, Stano is on a quest for redemption.
Another thing that helps make the movie more watchable is Maganiello’s pitch-perfect casting as Stano. He fits the role so perfectly that you would almost think it was written for him. His performance is much better than the film in which it appears, single-handedly elevating it from a pop fly to a single. The supporting cast, including Vergara and Denis O’Hare, is also good, but Manganiello always steals the spotlight.
On a technical level, the movie is mostly disappointing. There are a few interesting shots, but more often than not, the film is shot in a way that is just as if not more generic than the script. One of the most disappointing sequences in the movie is the finale, which is shot in an extremely anticlimactic way. It’s hard to make a baseball scene not feel exciting, so this is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Bottom of the 9th is average in pretty much every sense of the word. Although Manganiello gives a great performance, the film is dragged down by a generic script that has very little that is fresh or unique to say.
Bottom of the 9th hits theaters and VOD on July 19.