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Stars: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Robin Wright, Tammy Blanchard

Director: Bennett Miller

'How can you not be romantic about baseball?' asks Billy Beane (Pitt) in this underdogs-come-good sports story. Well, very easily as far as British audiences are concerned, and it's sure hard to follow all the baseball terms here. When the caption 'Bottom of the 9th' comes up, non aficionados may well feel like throwing in the towel.

Basically, the (true) scenario revolves around a going-nowhere team, the Oakland As, whose general manager, Beane, a former player whose own career never worked out, hires a Yale-educated numbers-cruncher (Hill) to help him overcome the team's cripplingly low budget with an entirely new approach to the game, taking on players who are considered too old, too injury-prone, or too much trouble, playing to their strengths and mixing them with what remains of the old guard after its star players have been sold off.

When the team's coach (Hoffman in salty form) refuses to implement the strategy, the team does poorly, and it's only when Beane insists on things being done his way that the wins start coming.

The baseball scenes are less than exciting here, and long pauses between lines of dialogue help to ensure the film runs much longer than it should. That said, performances are all good, especially from Hoffman and Hill, though it's a shame to see Robin Wright relegated to such a small role as Beane's ex-wife.

David Quinlan

USA 2011. UK Distributor: Sony (Columbia). Colour by deluxe.
131 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 19 Nov 2011