Following the news that a new poker movie Cold Deck had been doing the rounds at the MIPCOM entertainment market in Cannes, we thought we’d pick through the highs and lows of the poker-themed celluloid outings of the year. We warn you, though, it’s mainly lows.
But first, Cold Deck. Worldwide rights to the movie have just been acquired by Screen Media Ventures, and a recently released trailer can be viewed here:
The best thing about this movie, at first glance, is that it has “Paulie” from Goodfellas in it, actor Paul Sorvino. Although since his recent output includes such titles as Jersey Shore: Shark Attack and Santa Baby 2, this is no longer a guarantee of quality.
The plot centers around a poker player called “Bobby,” who has hit financial rock bottom and so conspires with his friend “Chips” (Sorvino) to rob a high-stakes bankers’ poker game. Except one of the players turns out not to be a banker at all, but a psychopathic gangster with a penchant for swinging blunderbuss axes around.
We’re sure that every poker player reading this has experienced something similar at least once in his career and we predict the poker community will love it. Or maybe not.
Meanwhile, Western Religion, shown last month for the first time at the San Diego Film Festival, follows a group of Old West stereotypes that descend on the town of Religion, Arizona in 1879 to compete in a “legendary” poker tournament.
Of course, poker scholars among you might point out here that poker tournaments weren’t devised until the early seventies, but we’re prepared to suspend our disbelief.
That is, if we ever get to see it. The crowdfunded movie is devoid of any known actors and therefore probably won’t be coming to movie theater near you any time soon.
Curiously enough, Western Religion wasn’t the only budget poker-themed Western to be released this year. Jackknife County: Liars’, Cheats and Poker Chips has a terrible title and an even worse trailer. View it here, if you dare:
As much as we hate to review a film purely on its trailer, we’ll make an exception here. The only positive thing we can say about it, in fact, is that it is a “short film.” Oh, and that they were very “green” with the non-existent lighting (presumably to simulate 19th century lack of electricity) and virtually no makeup or costumes required for the same reason. Well-played in the accountancy department there, producers.
The pick of the bunch (by some distance), Mississippi Grind is a road movie with echoes of The Gambler (the original) and California Split and stars Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn as two dissolute soulmates gambling their way across the South.
What we love most about the film is its accurate, if gloomy, portrayal of poker, a game that has traditionally been presented unrealistically by Hollywood, from the Cincinnati Kid, to Casino Royale, to, yes, even Rounders.
The latter, now revered by poker fans everywhere, opened to lukewarm reviews, but Mississippi Grind was almost universally praised. Expect this one to become a cult classic.