Director: Philip Haas
Writers: Paul Auster, Belinda Haas, Philip Haas
Producer: Paul Colichman, Topher Dunne
Music: Philip Johnston
Cinematography: Bernard Zitzermann
Editor: Belinda Haas
Stars: James Spader, Mandy Patinkin, M. Emmet Walsh, Charles Durning
Release Date: March 20, 1993 (United States)
Runtime: 98 minutes
James Spader as Jack Pozzi
Mandy Patinkin as Jim Nashe
M. Emmet Walsh as Calvin Murks
Charles Durning as Bill Flower
Joel Grey as Willy Stone
Samantha Mathis as Tiffany
Chris Penn as Floyd
Pearl Jones as Louise
Jordan Spainhour as Floyd Jr.
Paul Auster as Driver
Jim Nashe (Mandy Patinkin), a former Boston fireman, is aimlessly drifting across America ever since he quit his job after his wife departed him and his young daughter, and living off an inheritance.
On the way to New York City, he picks up professional gambler Jack Pozzi (James Spader). Jack narrates how he lost all of his worth in a poker game robbery. He was later beaten up on allegations of orchestrating the robbery.
Fascinated by the idea of easy money, Jim offers to back Jack with $10,000 for a rematch, but they would split the winnings fifty- fifty. They strike the deal and they later head to the residence of Bill and Willy (Charles Durning and Joel Grey), where the game begins.
Unfortunately, Jim Nashe not only loses the $10,000 stake, he even loses his posh BMW car. His failed attempt of winning the car back leads to him accruing a $10,000 debt.
Bill and Willy aren’t assured of how the duo would repay their debt and they thus decide the debtors would work it off. They order Jim and Jack to devote the next 50 days in building a wall on their property and in return the debt will be paid.
Foreman Calvin Murks (M. Emmet Walsh) closely supervises them while performing the task. Jim works diligently but Jack sees the task as slavery. Jack physically assaults Jim after a small confrontation.
After realizing that their food expenses were mounted to the debt and that Bill and Willy were on an overseas trip, Jack attempts to escape under the fence. However, his attempt is unsuccessful and Jim finds him unconscious and badly beaten.
Calvin takes him to hospital and later lies to Jim that his friend had recovered. Jim is convinced that Calvin has killed his friend and he decides to leave.
Philip Haas’ “Music of Chance” is a rare breed of 90’s movie with an innovative, distinct plot and amazing characters. Produced with a measured pace, there is no instance where the viewer loses the plot.
As the title says, the film shows the unpredictability of life and is up to an individual to lift the chances to his favor. The film revolves around two different protagonists with diverse aspirations in life. The impact of wrong choices is emphasized in the film as the duo end up as slaves.
Films revolving around a protagonist tend to be boring, but the producer overcame this with choosing the perfect actors. Jim Nashe (Mandy Patinkin) is a remote, responsible, and a man of a few words ready to face the consequences of his choices.
Jim’s sidekick in the form of Jack Pozzi, a slick talking poker player. However, Jim sees him as a tool to multiply his money only to end up in trouble too. Jack doesn’t shy away from fights despite ending up the casualty quite often.
The two rich men Bill and Willy are so cunning and inhumane. They entice Jim and Jack into winning the first few games only to end up getting all they had. The even enslave the duo, ordering them to undertake a monumental task.
Calvin Murks plays to dangerous supervisor ready to counter any attempts of escaping. The rest of the cast is amazing too.
Being a former actor and a documentary specialist, Philip Haas has merged all of his productions skills to the film. He manages to illustrate the intensity of the wall building. It is evident that Jim Nashe gets physically stronger as he gets to do more work.
The actors are also conversant with their roles with none of them lagging behind. The film has the documentary feeling rather than the normal drama and action in movies. Cinematography by Bernard Zitzermann was brilliant with diverse and clear backdrops.
One downside, the music by Philip Johnston was inappropriately fitted in the film. The music did not bring out clearly the mood of certain scenarios. The film is too good to have the cognition it currently has.
Based on a novel, I doubt many producers would come up with a film better than this. A film worth watching, full of moral and life lessons. If many producers would mimic Philip Haas, the film industry would be up a notch. That said, this one scoops a cool 7.1/10 rating.