If you like poker, then Rounders is a movie for you. Even if you don’t like it, I think you’ll enjoy this John Dahl’s underrated masterpiece. First of all, it’s full of memorable characters like KGB, Joey, or Worm. Secondly, these characters are played by phenomenal actors. I mean, just look at the cast of Rounders and you’ll see what I’m talking about. I’m also very happy that we didn’t get Ben Affleck but almighty Edward Norton. And finally, the blend of engaging storytelling and intelligent dialogue creates this vibe that will pull you into the screen. Before you know it, you will be cheering for Mike and wondering what will KGB do next…
During recent years we have seen movies like Maverick, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and 21, with distinctly different vibes. Rounders goes a step further and creates this greasy atmosphere from the seventies when movies like these were much more popular. And poker was more popular, just imagine how card games have suffered in the past thirty years with computer games and mobile phones taking over the market. Back to the movie, this is an entertaining and light thriller that will keep your attention despite the two-hour running time. If you like it, check out the rest of John Dahl’s movies like Red Rock West, The Last Seduction, and Joy Ride.
Meet Mike McDermott, a seemingly straight-up guy trying to finish law school. Mike also likes to gamble and he’s pretty good at it. However, after losing a lot of money in a game of Texas hold ’em, he decides to quit poker altogether. Several months pass and he stays true to his promise. But when his friend Worm is released from prison that will change.
Right from the opening scene, you’ll start getting these smokey, whisky-flavored gambling vibes. Rounders is one of those movies where the main character does the narration making it feel more personal. You’ll feel like you know the guy by the time he’s finished. Plus, you can use the lingo to seem like that cool guy you actually are but are not realizing it. Lines like: “If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half-hour at the table, then you are the sucker”. It doesn’t get smoother than that. I also loved the fact this isn’t one of those preachy movies warning about the dangers of gambling. It’s just a carefree look into this hidden world. Well, with the advent of online gambling, there’s actually no hiding from it.
Now, the damn thing is everywhere, making Rounders feel more relevant. However, playing Texas Hold ’em online and playing it live are two different things. In this sense, this movie is more similar to a regular hustling movie where two guys travel the country playing their game. We could be talking about pool (The Hustler) or even bowling (Kingpin).
Director: John Dahl
Writers: David Levien, Brian Koppelman
Cast: Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Turturro, Gretchen Mol, Famke Janssen, John Malkovich, Martin Landau
Fun Facts: Worm was originally a smoker but avid nonsmoker Edward Norton didn’t want to it.