The Movie Waffler Looking Back At BOOKIES | The Movie Waffler

Looking Back At BOOKIES

Putting yourself through college can be an expensive business, especially in America. In director Mark Illsley's 2003 film Bookies, three struggling college students – Toby (Nick Stahl), Casey (Lukas Haas) and Jude (Johnny Galecki) – come up with a way of not only paying their college expenses but also of living an affluent life. The three start up their own bookmaking service, taking bets from clients both on and off campus.

With so many top betting sites available online now, it's unlikely their business would be so successful today, but things were different in 2004 and so the three friends are soon raking in the cash. As their business becomes increasingly popular, they attract the sort of attention no budding businessman wants – that of the local Mafia, who are none too happy about the negative impact the three college kids are having on their own bookmaking business.

Movies in which young protagonists run into trouble with mobsters in the gambling world are plentiful (see also Rounders and 21), but Bookies stands out by being lighter in tone and more comedic than most of its rivals. In this way it has more in common with 1960s caper movies like the original Ocean's Eleven and How to Steal a Million. Screenwriter Michael Bacall would go on to write such comedies as Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Project X and 21 Jump Street.

Along with the aforementioned trio of young actors, the cast also features Rachel Leigh Cook, who was a fixture in comedies around this time, and watching her charming performance in Bookies you'll wonder why her career came to a standstill soon after. Veteran actor David Proval is well cast as a mobster, having been a regular on The Sopranos at this time, not to mention his role in Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets.

If you're looking for a fast-paced movie that combines thrills with laughs, Bookies, with its charismatic young cast and dynamic direction, should hit the spot. For a similar mix of crime and comedy, also check out director Illsley's 1999 debut Happy, Texas. Oddly, Illsley hasn't worked since, but with his two films he demonstrated a knack for finding the right mix of humour and suspense.