‘Rounders’ – review of a decent poker movie
Rounders is an excellent movie. The creators are more interested in the psychological aspects of poker than the sharp turns of the plot and all sorts of passions associated with the Russian mafia. Therefore, this is not at all a movie like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. The cast is not the dumb heroes of action movies fighting with gangsters, but very interesting and original actors playing their roles subtly, smartly and elegantly.
It is true, and you can’t say that they form a stunning ensemble at the same time. In essence, it seems to me that there is certain guilt of the director that he couldn’t make a single team out of these interesting actors, as a result, in football language, they turned out to be solid forwards who brilliantly attack, but forget to defend their own goal. Nevertheless, the game of almost each of these actors gives lively pleasure, despite the fact that they often pull the blanket over themselves.
In Rounders, the central duet is perfect – Damon and Norton. Damon, in principle, is not the first to play such a right and smart guy, and his character is a little less exciting than, for example, Worm (Norton), however, Matt played poker scenes brilliantly.
There are rumors that entering the role, Damon even tried to participate in the real poker championship in Las Vegas. What is more surprising, he became very interested in playing poker and decided to try some live poker online. But as the movies are very different from the real-life, he did not manage to get desired results. It happens not only to the celebrities but to the people who base their assumptions on the movie, thinking that they can earn money in the same way, poker players in the film are making, so in some cases, it may be misleading.
The last fight with the KGB Teddy is just beyond praise. Damon belongs to the category of those actors who avoid boiling passions and violent outbursts of emotions. Still, he has deep psychological feelings hidden behind external impassivity, which are expressed practically with only one eye.
Edward Norton just played a role not very typical for himself. But he played it – as usual – perfectly. It seems that, even after sitting in prison, he does not understand that he plays games that can end very badly. He treats everything very easily, even the game of poker, as a result of which he pulls into serious trouble not only himself but also his best friend, Mike.
And Norton plays this role very vividly and naturally. It is so natural that when the Worm starts to cheat again and spoil Mike’s excellent game, you just want to hit Worm. But when he, smiling with emotion, begins to prove to Mike that he only wanted to help, his hands immediately drop (both among the audience and Mike), and you begin to feel sorry for this bad guy who has the rare ability to spoil his own life.
John Malkovich in the role of the KGB Teddy is just super! It’s not very clear whose merit in creating this image is a screenwriter, director, or Malkovich himself, but the KGB Teddy resembles Lenin with a beard and bald forehead, Dzerzhinsky’s steel look, and Emir Kusturica’s dirty tracksuit. Multiply all this by Malkovich’s unconditional acting talent and get such a KGB Teddy that you just can’t take your eyes off.
Malkovich participates in only two scenes (the first and second game with Mike) and conducts them superbly. Especially the second scene, when . . . However, I will not tell, so as not to spoil your impression of the film.
John Turturro plays Mike’s mentor, an experienced and meticulous professional poker player who teaches Mike life. In general, it was played well, but nothing special was remembered for this role, as was the role of Martin Landau, who plays a university professor who also teaches Mike life.
In short, all those who teach Mike life in this film look somewhat faded (including the weakest role in this film – Mike’s girlfriend Jo (Gretchen Mol), but those who deliver him continuous troubles – they look just great.
In general, it is a pretty nice film that will please fans of psychological dramas and good acting. There is little action as such in the picture, so it may seem a bit boring to fans of action movies. In my opinion, perhaps one could either pay more attention to the psychological intricacies of the game of poker or add action. But even without this, the film is very, very good. Solid four. Acting – even on a four with a plus.