An aging star pitcher arrives at the crossroads of his life on the eve of a big game. Not only is he about to be traded after 20 years as the heart and soul of the Detroit Tigers, but Jane (Preston), the love of his life, is leaving him.
Following a string of rather embarrassingly high-profile flops, Costner returns to the well of grown-up rounders in the hope that it will once again sprinkle some magic over his ailing career. Garnering what can mercifully be described as mixed reviews in the States, For Love Of The Game isn't, unfortunately, up to the standard of either Bull Durham or Field Of Dreams. But if you can stomach the occasionally cloying sentiment, it goes a long way towards restoring his tattered reputation as a leading man. It helps that he's perfectly cast as Billy Chapel. Marooned on the pitcher's mound, retracing the steps that have brought him here, Billy achieves a kind of sporting Nirvana. Tuning out the roar of a hostile New York crowd, he realises that the fabled "perfect game" is within his grasp.
It's all pure soap, of course. But, in America at least, baseball has always been wreathed in a sacred romantic glow, and there's no denying that Costner cuts a heroic, if somewhat quixotic, figure. Staring the end of his career in the face, with no Jane to cushion the fall and his weary arm screaming in pain, you can't help but root for him as he fights his last, lonely battle. Director Sam Raimi, treading confidently over very unfamiliar ground compared to his usual bread-and-butter of blood-and-gore, musters a deal of visual pizazz, added to which is good support play from Preston and Reilly - but it's ultimately Costner's movie.
Even if it's an uneven, often overwrought piece of work, it's nevertheless compelling evidence that given the right role, Costner can still cut it in the majors.
Reviewed by Simon Braund