Rounders is nothing short of hypnotic. It is a film that introduced me
and many others to the surreal world of poker. High stakes, Texas Hold
Em, winner take all poker. For those unfamiliar with the game, not only
is this a perfect tutorial to understand the game, but this is a movie
that will entertain you right to the very end.
I like to think that this is just like Rocky. Matt Damon plays Mike McDermott, just like Stallone played Rocky. He has all the talent in the world but he needs to find a way to harness it and get the right opportunity. KGB is a little like Appollo Creed and John Tuturro is like Mickey in some ways. But enough of the comparisons of Rocky.
What makes Rounders so compelling is the interpersonal relationships in the film, no doubt, but let's face it, what really makes the film as vibrant and energetic as it is, is the poker scenes. We are introduced to several games here, namely Omaha, Omaha Hi Lo, 7 Card Stud and of course Texas Hold Em. According to Mike, Texas No Limit is the Cadillac of all poker games. He of course got that info from reading books by some of the poker greats such as Phil Helmuth, Amarillo Slim and of course The Godfather of poker, Doyle Brunson. Great detail is spent on the feel of poker in this film. When you are in the poker rooms, you can smell the smoke, taste the mustiness of the air and you can feel the emotions that the players feel. It really is a masterful job by Dahl to convey these emotions. And full credit has to be give to the screenwriters to know the lingo, to mollify us with terms like "flop", "river", "rags" and "bicycle". Rounders helped introduce me to this nefarious world and just like many others before me, I am hooked. Rounders can take credit for that.
What also must be mentioned here is the performances. Like many of the reviewers before me, I was awed by the absolute mastery of these characters by Damon, Norton, Malkovich, Turturro and Landau. My favourite performance is that of John Malkovich. He plays a Russian mobster called KGB. He is a master poker player and in the beginning scene, he takes all of Mike's bankroll as he hits a full house on fourth street, to cripple Mike's smaller boat. Malkovich is a master. He can play any role and he proves it in spades here. Think of his performance in a film like In The Line of Fire or in Of Mice and Men and this is about as diametric from those roles as you can get. There is not one second in the film when you don't believe that he is a Russian mobster with a propensity for gambling. If this film would have been more recognized back in 98, he could have received an Oscar nomination. He is that good. Matt Damon is really a fine actor and this film, while not as known as some of this others, is really a layered performance and one of his best. He plays the young prodigal son here with absolute zeal. Damon has to be one of the best actors working today and seeing as this was one of his first performances after Good Will Hunting, you have to give him that much more credit for taking on such an esoteric role. Kudos to him.
Rounders has grown in reputation over the years to the point where a special edition DVD with the likes of Helmuth, Johnny Chan, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson and 2003 WSOP champion Chris Moneymaker providing some excellent and enlightening commentary on the track. If you love this film, it is imperative that you pick up the SE DVD. It will enhance the experience for you and will help you appreciate the film that much more. It is fun and exciting to hear the 4 of them laugh when Mike finally busts KGB using Johnny Chen's methods from his first win in the World Series of Poker. Rounders is a fantastic movie and for those that haven't seen it, you should.
10/10 One of the most under rated films of the last 10 years!
Action / Crime / Drama
Action / Crime / Drama
Gifted poker player Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) loses his entire $30,000 bankroll in a hand of Texas hold'em against Teddy "KGB" (John Malkovich), a Russian mobster who runs an illegal underground poker room. Shaken, Mike decides to concentrate on law school, while promising his girlfriend and fellow law student Jo (Gretchen Mol) not to play the game anymore. Mentor and fellow rounder Knish (John Turturro) offers him a part-time job driving a delivery truck to make ends meet.Time passes, and Mike is true to his promise. He focuses on school and work until his childhood friend Lester "Worm" Murphy (Edward Norton) is released from prison. Worm is also a card player, who owes an outstanding debt accumulated before his incarceration. At Worm's influence, Mike is soon rounding again, which interferes with his studies and hurts his relationship with Jo.When Worm is given a five-day deadline to pay off his debt, Mike joins him in a furious race to earn the money. Worm wants to cheat to win, but Mike insists on playing straight. Played out through several card games in and around New York City, the two nearly make the $15,000 needed, but the pair are caught cheating and lose their entire bankroll. After this, Worm decides to leave the city, and he advises Mike to do the same. This is when he reveals to Mike that his debt is owed to KGB, the same Russian mobster who cleaned Mike out of his $30,000 bankroll several months before. Infuriated, Mike cuts ties with Worm once and for all.Mike refuses to flee. In a race against time to pay off Worm's debt, Mike gets his shot at redemption by placing his life on the line against the man who forced him out of the game. With the help of a $10,000 loan from his law school professor Petrovsky (Martin Landau), Mike sits down to play KGB in a no limit, heads-up game of Texas Hold'em.In two heated heads-up matches, Mike beats KGB, winning enough to pay off Worm's debt, repay his loan to the professor, and regain his original bankroll of about $30,000. The movie ends with Mike officially dropping out of law school, saying goodbye to Jo, and going to Las Vegas to play in the World Series of Poker Main Event.
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November 28, 2012 at 03:57 AM