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With: Joe Manganiello, Sofía Vergara, Michael Rispoli, Denis O'Hare, Burt Young, James Madio, Vincent Pastore, Xavier Scott Evans, Savvy Crawford, Yancey Arias, Masami Kosaka
Written by: Robert Bruzio
Directed by: Raymond De Felitta
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout and some violence
Running Time: 111
Date: 07/19/2019
IMDB

Bottom of the 9th (2019)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Base Value

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This low-key, unhurried baseball drama isn't entirely cliche-free, but thanks to a handful of quietly likable characters and a genuine appreciation for baseball, it achieves a modest, winning charm.

In Bottom of the 9th, Sonny Stano was a promising ballplayer until he went to prison in 1999 for the accidental death of a young man during a fight. Eighteen years later, a remorseful Stano (Joe Manganiello) is paroled and returns to his Bronx neighborhood. He accepts a humiliating job packing fish, and runs into his old girlfriend Angela (Sofia Vergara), but still feels lost.

Then, his former Coach Hannis (Michael Rispoli) offers him a job as an assistant, helping shape a young hothead ballplayer, Manny (Xavier Scott Evans). But when Stano steps up to the plate to demonstrate, it's clear that the thirty-eight year old still has the skills. Can Stano fight the ghosts of his past to earn his second chance?

Lead Manganiello is a mountain of a man, and could have come across in Bottom of the 9th as thuggish, but he manages a touching level of realistic pain and uncertainty and becomes most sympathetic. (He also showed some of this sweetness on True Blood, in the Magic Mike movies and Pee-wee's Big Holiday.)

Moreover, his screen chemistry with his real-life wife Vergara is surprisingly powerful, and Rispoli turns in a fine supporting performance as well. Director Raymond De Felitta (The Thing About My Folks, City Island), who specializes in intimate character-driven dramas set in New York, handles the baseball material with respect, and it feels honest, even as it indulges in some old, familiar baseball-movie chestnuts (especially the climactic game).

Bottom of the 9th sinks a bit when it falls back on silly montages, and it doesn't seem to know how to handle the character of Angela's young daughter (she's too malleable, with seemingly no free will), but overall, the movie hits its way home with enjoyable ease.

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