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Rounders Film and DVD review
Another movie review and another Edward Norton review. For the purpose of this review I will be reviewing the special edition version of the DVD.
Rounders is about the game of high stakes poker and absolutely love this film. It was released in 1998 and it stars Ed Norton as mentioned, Matt Damon in the lead role, John Malkovich and John Turturro. If that isn't enough to whet your appetite, then nothing is.
Matt Damon plays Mike McDermott who thinks he can live amongst the big boys in the poker world. Well, he knows he can but poker is about so many things; nerves, confidence, guile, bravery and above all luck. After losing everything in the hope that he can raise enough to go to Vegas to the Poker World Championships he decides to quit. An old friend comes back on the scene from prison and draws Mike back in to the poker world. Lester 'Worm' Murphy, played by Edward Norton is a shady character that lays everything on the table, which often lands him in trouble. Worm gets involved in a high stakes game with Teddy KGB, brilliantly played by John Malkovich, a Russian with connections high up in the Russian mafia. He's a man that you wouldn't want to mess with. Mike has got himself back together, given up cards and has the blessing of his girlfriend to make their life perfect by getting a job as a lawyer and starting a family together. Then Worm comes along and everything spirals out of control in a way you would never imagine. Mike stands to lose everything and what follows is a man teetering on the edge and gambling not only with the cards but with his life and the lives of those around him.
Matt Damon plays the part of Mike McDermott fantastically and I think it is one of his best roles in film. He has that vulnerability and that face that you want to believe in. His character makes some stupid decisions in the film but he is essentially a good guy who gets dragged into something against his wishes or so it seems at first. Poker is in his blood and he may be able to stop for a while but he will always go back to it. It will either make him or break him.
Ed Norton is absolutely brilliant as Worm. He makes you cringe, he makes you laugh, he makes you love him and he makes you hate him. It's another accomplished performance and the way he and Damon play off each other is superb. When you first see this movie you find yourself wanting to shout at the screen in frustration at Worm. One minute you feel like slapping him and the next you feel like hugging him.
John Malkovich is excellent as Teddy KGB. He has a really lilted Russian accent which works really well. His character has a penchant for Oreo cookies and he is forever splitting them and eating each half while at the poker table. He does actually seem like a teddy bear but you can feel the icy steel underneath and he does make your skin crawl on occasion.
John Turturro plays Joey Knish. He is probably Mike's only true friend and although it's only a bit part role really he shines in it. He is one of those actors who can play a fit in role to perfection; he has that quiet aura about him and is another actor who you emphasize with without him ever having to stretch himself.
There is also a small role for Martin Landau who plays Abe Petrovsky, Mike's mentor and teacher, where he is a professor at law school.
The film is directed by John Dahl who is a great TV director and has worked on some of my favourite shows, including 'Dexter', 'True Blood' and 'Homeland'. He also worked on the US remake of one of my favourite UK TV shows 'Shameless'. The direction on the movie is faultless but you can tell by the many fade to blacks that he is a TV director. Some of the scene sets, lighting and ambience in the film are really well shot and it creates a great backdrop to the story. The film is shot on location in Atlantic city in New Jersey.
You learn a whole lot about poker in this film and the fundamentals behind the game, including what it takes to have the metal to risk everything or win nothing. The movie is a lot more than that though and there is of course a very strong moral attached to it and message about human nature, its frailties and its strengths. It is also a story of friendships and relationships and the way that they can change in such a short time when wrong decisions are made.
I have seen this film on numerous occasions and I always find something new or different in some of the conversations each time. I daresay I will watch it again in the future.
It has a fifteen certificate and is one hundred and sixteen minutes long. The special features on the bonus DVD contain 'Set Top Games', which teach you how to play 'Poker' and 'Texas Hold Em'. There are also interviews with real poker champions and tips from some of the best players. It surprisingly doesn't contain that much for a special edition and is more of a poker edition than a film special edition.
I would definitely recommend this movie to someone who hasn't seen it. It is full of brilliant acting performances from some of the finest actors in film today and definitely keeps you interested. The card scenes are exciting and keep you on the edge of your seat and are very realistic and are a perfect play off the dialogue scenes.
A great film which I imagine introduced a number of people to the joys of texas holdem poker!
This is a David and Goliath type film with the plot line centred around Mike McDermott (played by the great Matt Damon) a lowly Law student with a flair and passion for poker, taking on the big, rich and seemingly unbeatable Teddy KGB (played by John Malkovic).
What is enchanting about this film is that not only does it appeal to a poker playing audience - with the clear research that has obviously gone into it to make it authentic, with Mike studying books from the greats such as Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim and Phil Helmuth, it also appeals to a wider audience by way of the plotline focussing on the relationships involved. Namely Mikes relationship with his girlfriend and wayward friend Worm (Edward Norton).
The performances and authenticity that has gone into this film is great. Malkovic is a master at portraying the eccentric, yet powerful Teddy KGB.
I dont want to give away too much of the plot line but would just like to stress that this film is really one of the only authentic poker related films out there so any poker players out there wont be disappointed with the usual unrealistic nature of the hollywood dramatisations of the game.
Whilst this has just been a film review I would reccomend that if you are to buy this DVD you get the special edition DVD which includes commentry from poker legends such as Phil Helmuth Jr and Johnny Chan. This makes for interesting and fun listening.
Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) a promising young student and avid poker player, manages to lose all his money in one big game with the Russian Mafia. Vowing to never play again he sets about sorting his life out through hard work. But nine months later and seemingly able to keep his addiction in check, things take a turn for the worse when his best friend, Lester Worm Murphy (Edward Norton) is released from prison and convinces him to start playing again.
It seems that over the last decade the game of Poker has become increasingly popular, with tournaments and games being held on TV most nights of the week, you can even buy your own chips and gambling tables in high street shops. So it is no surprise that the men behind the Hollywood movies would attempt to tap into this current fad with a glossy, star studded film about the world of poker. Whilst they have certainly achieved in making a very engrossing, slick drama, they have failed to portray the life of a gambler in anything but a glamorous light.
The concept behind the film of an ex-gambler being dragged back into the world of high stakes poker is actually quite good and sort of demonstrates the allure of the cards that any gambler has. But sadly the writers have failed to capitalize on this interesting premise by not only failing to show the life of a gambler realistically but also focussing too heavily on the drama at the poker tables than away from it. These two major faults combine to make what is quite a flawed film although one which still manages to maintain a certain amount of audience interest. The faults start quite early on in the film and after we see Mike lose a huge amount of money he seems to be able to walk away from Poker without any problems, anyone who has ever had a gambling addiction will soon tell you this is near on impossible and the lure of the cards will always tempt you. The writers do redeem themselves slightly as they attempt to show that even after 9 months he still has the mind of a Poker player but they could have done so much more to demonstrate how gambling ruins your life. This problem with not being realistic carries on throughout the movie and when Mike returns to the table which in turn causes his relationship with his girlfriend to end as well as his future as a lawyer, he doesnt even bat an eyelid, in fact he laughs it off and heads for the poker tables again. Part of the issue with the film is that it is trying to be fast paced and in doing so has caused the problem with the lack of realism by skimming over things which are important, such as any real back history to the characters. One of the worst cases of this attempt to be fast paced happens when Mike and Lester take a huge beating for cheating at a card game, but they seemingly manage to pull themselves up off the street and get straight back on with things.
Another huge issue is with the dialogue in the movie, as it is littered with technical references to the game of Poker. Now I am no novice at playing Poker (nor an expert), but most of this dialogue went straight over my head leaving me wondering what on earth they were on about. This is heightened by the film relying on a narration from the character Mike where he attempts to enlighten us to the mind of a Poker player. Sadly this fails to really work due to the fact that what he says is so full of technical mumbo jumbo that it distracts you from what is happening on the screen. That is not to say the writers have done a terrible job with the film, far from it and I can honestly say that there is enough drama and action to keep you focussed on the screen, especially when they show one of the many poker games which feature in the film.
I also feel the characters and the cast seriously let the film down, and for a film which is billed as having a star studded cast I feel a little bit cheated. The problems with the characters come from the fact that the film doesnt really stop to give us any real back history. Yes there is the narration which drops a few clues to why Mike and Worm are best buddies, but I felt it incredibly hard to really get a feel for the characters and also struggled as to why Mike remained loyal to Lester despite his cheating. Which is a huge point for me when it comes to how much I enjoy a film, especially a drama ,as I need to be able to relate to and understand the actions of the main characters. I also felt that the casting of Matt Damon in the lead was a huge mistake as he just doesnt show any emotion at all. If you could ever criticize someone of monotone acting it is Matt Damon in Rounders. Saying that, he looked amazingly comfortable round the card tables and you really got a sense that he knew what he was doing. My issues with the cast dont just stop at Damon and also found Norton incredibly hard to relate to. My main problem with Norton is that he just doesnt look convincing as a quick talking card hustler and although he handled a deck of cards efficiently his mannerisms didnt fit the character. Where I feel really cheated by the film is the labelling of it as a star studded cast. Whilst I cannot deny that the film has some remarkable actors and actresses in it, such as John Turturro, John Malkovich, Famke Jannsen and Martin Landau, the film focuses so strongly on Damons character and to some extent Nortons character that these big names are nothing more than bit players.
Although I have huge issues with the way the film glamorises the life of a card player, and skims over much of the nasty side. I have to admit that director John Dahl has done a good job in making a fast paced, slick drama which will undoubtedly appeal to the legions of Poker fans. His style of shooting the poker scenes is brilliant and the mood he creates with the effective use of lighting really assists the film. I just wish he had taken the time to give us a better look at each of the characters allowing us to relate to them in a greater way than we can as the movie stands.
Whilst the concept for the film is indeed very good the fact that the film fails to paint the world of Poker in anything but a positive light is rather annoying. Yes it does to some agree show the allure of the game to gamblers and does attempt to show how the addictiveness of the game affects your life, but it never does it to the extent that it feels real. Of course the film is nothing more than a slick action drama about the world of Poker and to paint it in a truly realistic light would have probably put many a viewer off of watching it. I also feel that the casting of the film seriously lets it down, with monotone Damon showing no real emotion and Norton looking uneasy as a hustler being the two main faults. Plus the over technical dialogue will leave many a viewer bewildered as to what is going on. So whilst I may find it a reasonable slick drama, I feel it would probably only find a true fan in those who enjoy the game of Poker.
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Duration: 116 mins
Year of Release: 1998
Director(s): John Dahl
Writer(s): David Levien, Brian Koppelman
Cast: Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Turturro, John Malkovich, Gretchen Mol, Martin Landau, Famke Janssen, Merwin Goldsmith, Sonny Zito, Michael Rispoli, Mal Z. Lawrence, Josh Mostel
© Christianfilm October 2007
Please note this is a movie only review however the DVD can be bought for around £7 from most sites if anyone is interested.
The two main actors which the story revolves around are Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting and Saving Private Ryan) and Edward Norton (American History X and Fight Club). The film is set in New York and focuses around Mike McDermott (Damon) who loses his life savings in a poker game against a Russian mobster called Teddy KGB (Malkovich). At this point the film fast forwards nine months ahead showing a reformed Mike McDermott who has given up poker to please his girlfriend. One of his old friends is released from prison, Worm (Norton), who lures him back in to the poker scene once again. Worm convinces Mike that they can clean up by playing against unsuspecting amateur players in private poker games. Worm confesses to Mike that he needs to make some serious money quickly to pay off his debt to Teddy KGB and Mike mistakenly vouches for Worm putting both of their lives on the line. Now they both have 2 days in order to raise $15,000! Can they scrap enough money together or will Worms dirty card tricks get them in to more trouble?
I think that overall Rounders is a great little film which has been sadly overlooked. It has a really good plot and manages to explore the highs and lows of poker very well. Throughout the film Matt Damon provides narration which helps to explain some of the thought process behind many of the moves which pros make during a poker game; this is really helpful if you are not familiar with the rules. For instance winning at poker is all skill and no luck. It's about playing the other men at the table, not the cards. The direction of the movie is predictable in some places but this does not matter because the acting is terrific; I was hooked from start to finish.
Director: John Dahl
Cast: Edward Norton, Gretchen Mol, Martin Landau, John Malkovich, John Turturro, Famke Janssen, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Melina Kanakaredes, Michael Rispoli
Release Year: 1998
Run Time: 1 Hour 55 minutes (approx)
Gunshot Straight, Live Blind, One - Gap, wait, what the heck do they mean? Well, who knows, but John Dahl's film, Rounders, will take you on a ride through the fast lane of the underground poker scene. Starring Matt Damon as Mike McDermott, and Edward Norton as the wisecracking Lester 'Worm' Murphy, Rounders, deals with the struggles of a man fighting his addictions, in this case, high-stakes poker. Mike used to have it all, a promising law student, a beautiful girlfriend, and of course, lots and lots of money from his time spent cleaning peoples pockets as a poker player. That is until one night, during a late high-risk game of poker against the skilled Teddy KGB (John Malkovich), Mike proceeds to bet all of his money on one last play, and loses it in the process. Teddy cleans him out, taking his new $20,000 with him. Since that money was needed for his acceptance to law school, he gives up poker, promising to his girlfriend never to return to that life. Needless to say, that promise doesn't last very long. His best friend, Worm, who is more like a brother to him, is released from prison and the two are soon up to their old tricks again. Things begin to turn nasty when Grama (Michael Rispoli) shows up. It turns out that a lot of people have been looking forward to Worms's release, not just Mike, as he owes a small fortune of $25,000 to none other than the notorious Teddy KGB. Worm is able to pay $10,000 of it, but that is all the money he has, so up steps his noble friend Mike and the race against time begins to earn $15,000 in three days. Rounders has a lot of things going for it, mainly the acting. Matt Damon puts in a good, safe performance again, but is totally overshadowed by the fantastic Edward Norton. As you should know by now, Norton has amazing on screen charisma and it's just impossible to dislike him, even if he is playing a fallacious character. Although he could have been used more
, but he is fine the way he is, as a supporting actor. The other supporting cast members are also on top form, with John Turturro, John Malkovich and Gretchen Mol putting in great performances. The thing that lets Rounders down is its extreme predictability; you can easily predict what will happen in the next 5 minutes of the film. While this may not bother some people, it grated on me a little bit, but not enough to ruin the whole experience. Another disappointing aspect of the movie is the love story between Mike and his girlfriend Jo (Gretchen Mol). This seems as if it was thrown in to give the character more life, but it doesn't add anything to the character, as there is very little interaction between the two. Given a little more characterization and history on the characters, this could have been a potential five-star movie, but as it stands Rounders is still a great film, that is well worth a purchase by anyone, poker-fans or not.
Rounders was a low profile film which starred Matt Damon and Ed Norton, i think before before they became big hollywood stars, because this film didn't really get alot of media coverage. John Malkavosch(I think that how you spell it) also star's but not really a main role. The film is about Mike (Matt Damon), who is a poker player, know as a small timer within the Poker standards in New York, who uses all his money to play Teddy KGB (John Malkavosch), who is involved in the Russian mob but loses all his money and then decides to quit and takes a shitty job to pay his way through law school. But this all changes when he meets up with his best friend worm (Ed Norton) who just gets out of jail, but he is owning about £25,000 to Teddy KGB and gets Mike back into the game of poker as Mike promised he would pay it back aswell. So Mike and Worm have a week to pay off £15,000, worm had already payed off £10,000, or basically they will get killed. So Mike and Worm are doing well and make about £8,000 but they step into the wrong game and lose their money and get beaten up. At this piont Worm does a runnerand leaves Mike alone, Mike is then left with a difficult senario as he doesn't have £15,000 so he borrow's £10,000 off his law teacher and confronts Teddy KGB and plays with the money to pay off his debt. I will ot tell you what happens you will have to watch it. The film is about gambling which learn me how to play poker and many other poker related topics. I so suppised the film kept a low profile and i watched it for the first time on sky box office, and i loved it. So i would say it worth watching just for the gambling aspect of it. Rory
This is a cool little movie that never really got the coverage it deserved and quickly nestles on the bottom shelves of independent video stores. With two of Hollywood’s best young up and coming actors in the brilliant Ed Norton and studious Matt Damon you cant go wrong with this 100 minute gambling pic. Damon plays a reformed gambler that was hooked on high stakes card games that cost him all his life savings and a promising college career. Three years down the line he’s putting himself through law school whilst living with his beautiful girlfriend. But his life is about to change for the worse as his partner in crime Worm (Ed Norton) is released from a two-year stretch in the state pen. But Worm isn’t going straight and tries to tempt his poker-playing buddy back to the card schools to make a quick buck $$$$. At first he’s content with the warm embrace of his girl (Gretcha Moll) and the routine of study. But the buzz returns as he tags along to one of Worm’s seedy back rooms to watch his back. But Worm quickly gets in stuck and owes the Russian Mafia big after a high stakes card game. Sergi (John Malkovich) is owed 20 grand by Norton, and he wants it now or its car trunk time. Damon is drawn into a big game to save his friend using his super cool poker skills as the two attempt to get out of a tight squeeze and avoid a fate that Damon is also carrying on his shoulders.
Rounders is far from the first film I have bought without having seen it first, though certainly one of the few where my decision to do so was not based on it containing one or more of my favourite actors. The risk paid off handsomely, as this film, revolving entirely round the game of poker with which I am totally unfamiliar, was entertaining and even gripping to the last. If I feel like going off to make something to eat during a movie on video, then it has not held my attention despite my love of film, and therefore is a failure. No chance here, my ignorance on the subject matter was irrelevant as the film was not designed to go over my head and the acting was compelling. I agree the characters were not well fleshed out, but I still felt a degree of empathy which made me very interested in the outcome, which again the film cleverly made less obvious than you might expect. To the reviewer who said forget Matt Damon, either this was jealousy or you were not concentrating, he made me care what happened to him. A good choice, a nice surprise, watch it yourself and you'll see why!
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 and relationships. 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. Matt Damon stars as a reluctant law student who can't put aside his subterranean career of playing poker and blackjack for big money. After he loses his post-grad nest egg to a weird Russian kingpin (John Malkovich)--and also loses his disgusted girlfriend (Gretchen Mol) in the process--Damon's character turns to an unreliable old buddy (Edward Norton) for a dangerous game of sharking wherever there happens to be a game underway: frat boys, cops, bad dudes, you name it. Norton appears to be living out every young actor's fantasy of re-creating Robert De Niro's prot! otypical head case in Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets, and while his performance is burdened by obvious quotation marks, his estimable talent still shines through. Damon's charm and intelligence bring some oomph to the curiously flat proceedings, and while his hushed, soul-bearing scenes with Martin Landau (as a law professor who takes a shine to the kid) seem gratuitous, they're still nice to watch. Behind all this is director John Dahl (Red Rock West), who is not exactly at the top of his game here but who brings his distinctive toughness to the crime-noir tone.--Tom Keogh, Amazon.com