5 Great Movies About Playing Cards
OK, maybe all these movies aren't ABOUT playing poker and other card games, but they certainly do feature the game heavily. I was going to call this "5 Great Casino Movies" but then I would've felt like I had to put Casino on the list, and I can't call that movie "great" with a clean conscience. Take that, DeNiro - you're nowhere near as cool as James Garner and Jodie Foster, who are apparently playing poker next to a bong in the above poster.
Rounders (DVD, Blu-Ray)
A little drunk on its own arcane exotica as a gambling movie, Rounders is a film that takes us inside a world of high-stakes card players but falls short on such essentials as character development, relationships, that sort of thing. Still, it is a real curiosity, written by a couple of guys (David Levien and Brian Koppelman) who appear to know something about the dark underbelly of card hustling for fun and profit.
Get over yourself product reviewer - this one's worth picking up. A lot of people think of this as the prototypical poker movie for our generation, and I haven't seen one that captures the seedy vibe of hustling so well. Yeah it's a bit weird that Damon's character is so good at reading people at the table, but sucks at reading them in real life but hey - ever hear of a tragic flaw? Oh and also, the way they changed the art on the Blu-Ray version to include disembodied, floating hands is ridiculous.
The Sting (DVD)
Set in 1936, the movie's about a pair of Chicago con artists (Newman and Redford) who find themselves in a high-stakes game against the master of all cheating mobsters (Robert Shaw) when they set out to avenge the murder of a mutual friend and partner. Using a bogus bookie joint as a front for their con of all cons, the two feel the heat from the Chicago Mob on one side and encroaching police on the other.
If Rounders is the poker movie of our generation, The Sting is the poker movie of our parents' generation. Don't buy this as a gift for your folks if you don't want to see your mother get all heated in her nethers when Paul Newman and Robert Redford are on screen together. Oh, and the poker's pretty good too.
Hard Eight (DVD)
Before hitting the big time with his second film Boogie Nights, young filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson impressed critics with this deftly conceived, low-budget film noir chamber piece. With its minimalist plot, deliberate pacing, and brief, but shocking bursts of violence, Hard Eight won't please everyone, but Anderson and his first-rate cast were clearly working on the same authentic wavelength.
I discovered this movie before I saw Rounders, as I was going through the back catalog of Boogie Nights's PT Anderson. It's still fun to go back and see John C Reilly still playing it serious, before he went all Chris Walken on us and decided he had to be funny in EVERYTHING.
All bets are off in London's gambling world when struggling writer Jack Manfred (Gosford Park's Clive Owen) accepts his father's offer of a job as a croupier, out the cards of fate and fortune each night to casino patrons. As his relationship with his girlfriend, Marion (Notting Hill's Gina McKee), suffers from the strain of his new job, Jack finds his eye roving to a seductive gambler, Jani (ER's Alex Kingston), who lures him into a dangerous robbery scheme with Jack positioned as the inside man.
A pre-Sin City Clive Owen being all brooding and dark in a casino? Win.
Mel Gibson stars as card-playing gunslinger Brett Maverick, who meets up with wily gambler Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster) and a marshal named Zane Cooper (James Garner, trading his old role to Gibson) on his way to the World Series of poker in St. Louis. Maverick's trying to raise the $5,000 needed to join the high-stakes contest, but that's easier said than done due to a lot of unscrupulous competition and a twisting plot of tricks and deceptions.
I cherish any movie that features card playing and a chance to see Mel Gibson before we had any idea he was going to go so absolutely and spectacularly off the rails. Added bonus - the dude from that movie Tank, who played the original Maverick on TV, playing the foil.
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Posted by Jake Jamieson at November 29, 2010 10:48 AM