Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rounders (1998)

Director: John Dahl

Writers: David Levien, Brian Koppelman

Composer: Christopher Young

Starring: Matt Damon, Gretchen Mol, John Malkovich, Paul Cicero, Ray Lannicelli, John Turturro, Martin Landau, Edward Norton, Slava Schoot, Goran Visnjic

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You've got to play the hand you're dealt.

Plot: After losing a high-stakes card game, Mike (Damon) gives up gambling for law school and a fresh start with his girlfriend (Mol). But then his best buddy (Norton) gets out of prison and in over his head with a ruthless card shark (Malkovich). From there, Mike’s strong sense of loyalty – and the lure of the game – draws him back to the tables in a game he cannot afford to lose!

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Kenny Rogers as....THE SPOILERS!!!! YARRRRR!!!

I'm a big fan of director John Dahl and have been for a couple of decades (at least).  Have you seen RED ROCK WEST (1993) or THE LAST SEDUCTION (1994)?  Great films.  He's mostly directed TV episodes for the last few years.  I don't know why he doesn't do more films but oh well.  I'll take what I can get.  I'm not much of a gambler but I dig gambling movies and there are a good ones when it comes to poker.  THE CINCINNATI KID (1965) is a real beaut.  Great atmosphere and performances.   ROUNDERS is a great modern poker film that focuses on the need to play or the compulsion to be who you are.  Mike (Damon) eventually realizes this and stops fighting it.  I dig that the business with his girlfriend didn't consume him or the movie.  So often films dwell on this but I'm glad the film makers had the sense to understand that wasn't necessary.  Getting her out of the way quickly was a good move.  You just know that as soon as Worm (Norton) shows up it's not going to end well and he's probably going to bring some collateral damage to Mike.  And I really liked that they didn't kill him off, another typical Hollywood move.  You get the idea that eventually he'll do himself in but that's not in this story.  Damon does a very good job as does everyone else in the cast.  Turturro (I miss seeing him in movies), Landau, Mol and Malkovich are wonderful. Christopher Young's moody score is fantastic.  It had that 1950s Hollywood jazz score feel that really felt at home here.  I kind of got a TOUCH OF EVIL (1958) vibe off it that hit all the right notes.  Good stuff.

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