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Rounders is I believe, one of the most widely underrated movies of our
I first saw this movie as it was a 'bonus DVD' thrown in for free with my DVD player back in 2000, so naturally I didn't expect much (as the other bonus DVD's were very mediocre), but what I found was a very enjoyable movie.
At that stage in my life, I had only played a little poker as a child growing up, and never 'Texas Hold'em' so to be honest, a lot of the terminology went 'over my head', but even so, the film became an instant favorite of mine purely because of the performances.
The film has so much star power, and yet none of the fine actors try to 'steal' scenes. Damon, Norton, Malkovich, Landau ... and then the fine supporting cast of Turturro, Jansen, and Mol.
In fact, there is a scene with Martin Landau and Matt Damon that is perhaps one of the most beautiful performances I have seen in a long time between two very fine actors.
So even if you're not a poker player, the story is tighter than a lot of Hollywood 'pop fluff' and the performances alone can sell the film as an enjoyable movie capable of multiple viewings.
But ... if you start playing poker and get really into what they are talking about, and reading about poker theory (like Doyle Brunson's book Super System) then the movie moves up to a whole different level.
A lot of the time, Hollywood will attempt to cover a specialized error, and usually fail, or at best only partially succeed, whereas Rounders managed to get everything 'spot on', just look at the US DVD, it has a commentary track from 4 World Champion Poker players, if that's not a stamp of approval then I don't know what is.
When you factor in how the film can be enjoyed by someone who has little to no idea about Poker (as I did when I first saw the film) just because of the tight story and stellar performances and also be 'immortalized' by poker enthusiasts as the best movie ever made on the subject (and truth be told, a big reason why the World Series of Poker has been doubling it's entries year after year) ... what you have here is a true gem that works on so many levels and what I believe is, as I said initially, one of the most widely underrated movies of our time.
There is a lot of good stuff in this film. You have a great story, an
excellent cast, excellent directing, and a couple great games of
When I first heard about this film, I was a bit skeptical. It's a game about poker, how exciting can it be? The fact that Edward Norton was in the film was the prime reason I wanted to see "Rounders". After seeing the film, I couldn't believe how much I liked it. The film flows very well from start to finish and you can't wait to see what happens in the next scene. Also, the film is filled with interesting, well-written characters.
As I mentioned above, the cast is fantastic. You have Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Malkovich, John Turturro, Gretchen Mol, Famke Janssen, Martin Landau and some small roles by Melina Kanakaredes (of "Providence") and Goran Visnjic (of "ER"). Matt Damon is quite a good actor and this is just another great film to add to his list of already impressive roles. Edward Norton is fantastic as "Worm", he plays a truly unlikeable person, but at the same time you respect him for taking the fall for his friends. John Tuturro is excellent, as always, he has such a cool style about him. John Malkovich is superb in his portrayal of Teddy KGB. And the rest of the cast does a great job as well in their respective roles.
If you are a poker fan, then I recommend you see this film, hopefully you'll enjoy it. I myself am not a huge fan of poker, but I do play the occasional game and I loved this film. I loved the characters, the dialogue, the acting, EVERYTHING. I truly hope you enjoy the film. Thanks for reading,
I love this movie: the plot line is pat and predictable as it effortlessly
unfolds; the characters are clearly defined and you know who to root for and
who to despise; and there are no dull scenes or dead end sub-plots. Matt
Damon is Mike, an affable law student with little interest in the law and a
passion for high stakes poker. When he loses his shirt and promises his
girl friend (cute and perky Gretchen Mol) that he will never play poker
again, you know this pie-crust promise will quickly be broken. And broken
it is when Matt picks up his former schoolmate buddy, "Worm" (Edward Norton)
who is getting out of prison and leads him back to the poker table and deep,
deep into debt and hot water.
As usual, Matt Damon is adorable as the talented gambler, flashing those dimples and that Gary Cooper down-turned grin; John Malkovich is over the top as cookie-munching Teddy KGB, and, yes, if you're familiar with Russians just off the boat, you know they really DO speak like that and have a natural flare for the dramatic; Martin Landau delivers another impeccable performance as the aging, melancholic law professor whose family expected him to become a rabbi; Famke Janssen is nicely understated as the errand girl who has the obvious hots for Matt; and John Turtorro puts is solid as Knish, the grinder. Indeed, Mr. Turorro is becoming one of the most reliable and dependable supporting players to grace any film in which he appears. When the time and the role are right, his time will come.
But the real star of this film is Edward Norton as the low-life sociopath who bears the appropriate sobriquet "Worm." Twenty years ago when I first saw "The Onion Field," I thought James Wood had created the sleaziest character ever to appear on film. Jim, move over. Norton is cheap, slimy, and skinny, devoid of scruples and empathy, a little wise guy with a big mouth and nothing to back it up. You just KNOW this scumbag neither bathes nor brushes his teeth, and when the little rat gets the stuffings beaten out of him by a group of off-duty cops whom he has cheated, you want to join in and get in a punch. Women will want to slap him. In his first scene he lets you know he's a hard-hearted louse: told that he is being released from prison in the middle of a penny-ante card game with his cell mates who beg him to leave his cigarettes behind, he gathers them up and then contemptuously drops them in the dumper on the way out. This is a cockroach with no redeeming social value who lives to use and con and degrade people.
It's no trick for an actor to make you love him; to make you despise him so much you'd like to throttle him takes real talent. I've seen Ed Norton in "Fight Club," "Primal Fear," and "The People vs. Larry Flynt" and this is one young actor to watch. He's one of those natural actors who can be whatever he wants to be and it will be sheer joy watching him grow and mature.
"Rounders" may be short on originality, but it's long on suspense, action, and entertainment and while not the best flick to come down the pike, it's a wonderfully satisfying two hours. I don't know much about the game of poker, but I sure do know a good movie when I see one. I give it an 8 out 10 rating for human interest.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
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!
I knew "Rounders" had something to do with gambling, and that Matt Damon
stars in it, but not much more. So, when I watched it on DVD I was
pleasantly surprised how engaging a film it is.
I am not a gambler, so maybe that is part of why I found it so fascinating. Basic story - Damon's character is a 2nd yr law student in NYC, and a good enough poker player that he has aspirations of entering and winning the million-dollar prize in the world series of poker in Lasvegas. However, Ed Norton plays his good buddy just getting out of prison. Norton's character is also a poker player, but also incorporates cheating because that just helps you make money faster. This approach gets both of them in some pretty hot water, and also deep in debt!!
Damon's character has a S.O. played by Gretchen Mol. Her distaste for gambling puts a great strain on their relationship. Will she stay, or will she move out??
And finally, John Malkovich does a wonderful job as the Russian gambler nicknamed "KGB". John Turturro is perfectly cast as Damon's friend and "street" advisor.
I simply found myself caught up in this story, anticipating the next poker game, wondering if they would all get whacked, or survive. Plus, Matt Damon has such a relaxed acting style, with that great smile of his, which makes all of his movies easy to watch.
I rate this one 8 of 10 for the well-done gambling drama depicted here.
This film is incredibly focused. There is not one throw-away line or one extra frame in the entire movie. From the first establishing shot to the final line, the production team plays it tight and aggressive. I couldn't help but think of "The Hustler" as I watched, and Damon more than survives this comparison to a young Paul Newman. His swagger and charm and the even, controlled truthfulness of his performance all serve to place him solidly in the game with any of Hollywood's best. Highly recommended.
Have to first mention the great performances by Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Malkovich, and Martin Landeau. Good story, although Worm was one the biggest jerks I've seen interpreted on film lately. Really liked the narration of what's going on during high stakes poker matches. Talked to poker playing people who thought the game was represented well. The one-on-ones between Damon and Malkovich were terrific.
I have no idea if this movie is at all realistic (certainly so many people
inhabiting this strata of the poker world can be so good looking), but at
least it has the ring of verisimilitude. Not only does it show us the
workings of a somewhat exotic (to me, anyway) part of the world, but it
manages to do this stylishly while treating us to an interesting character
study and a clever plot.
The story is about a young "rounder" who is trying to go straight by going to law school (although our first glimpse of him shows him losing all his money in a high-stakes poker game with a Russian gangster). He quits gambling for a while until a old friend (played by Norton) returns to his life and lands him in deep trouble. What I especially like about the movie is that is starts off as if this plot line is the main subject, when in fact the movie is about this person learning important things about himself. And there is a lot of information about poker...
Damon is especially impressive among a uniformly good cast.
"Rounders" is about a straight-flying legal student (Matt Damon) who
leaves behind his gambling habits to satisfy his moralistic girlfriend.
However when his best friend "Worm" (Edward Norton) is released from
jail, the two embark on a cards-journey that leads them from success to
misfortune after Worm is caught cheating and the man who caught him
(John Malkovich) wants his money back.
Whereas Ben Affleck continues to go downhill after "Good Will Hunting," Matt Damon has striven uphill, taking on daring productions such as "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "The Bourne Identity" series, and of course "Rounders," which features one of his best performances. Damon has become typecast as some sort of bad actor in the league of Affleck, but he's much better than his pal, and films like this prove it.
Norton is once again superb as one of his characters you love to hate. He's got the character of Worm down pat, and it really elevates the acting (along with Damon) to a level of greatness.
The film is directed and written very well, offering realistic dialog and gritty environments. However the flaws of the movie are its long running time (two hours exactly), which could have been shortened, and probably the fact that its card playing is sometimes a bit alienating to the audience.
That said, this is still a very underrated movie featuring outstanding performances and a unique spin on gambling flicks. Worth watching at least once in a lifetime.
This film was unjustly panned as lethargic and bleak without a purpose.
Considering how Hold 'Em has developed into one of the biggest social
fads in the last decade, I would say that this film captures every
emotional aspect the 'swings' of No Limit typically carry.
I had absolutely no idea how to play the game when I first saw this movie about five years ago. The dialogue is wrought with jargon that almost makes a mockery of itself. Especially since much of the movie is done with voice-over, I can see where critics are coming from. However, the viewer should not allow themselves to get bogged down with it all, we get the gist with well-developed staging and performances.
Damon and Norton play off each other better than Damon and Affleck. Though the story echoes in the wake of Scorsese's 'Mean Streets', the performances seem more detailed than the Keitel/DeNiro combo. The supporting roles add great depth to the film, and Tutorro shines as the wise-old has-been that successfully provides Damon's character with the cold-hard truth he never seems to adhere to (until it is too late).
Above all, we feel compelled to cheer for Damon's Mike McDermott the ENTIRE time. He acknowledges his 'bad' play but constantly tries to explain that this is a game of skill and not luck. This is an important element considering the widely accepted belief that any success in gambling is the result of luck. This may be true in the bloodsucking casinos, but in Hold 'Em you play the chips AND the man.
Now that baseball is out of the Olympics, perhaps we will see a push for a true "WORLD Series of Poker". Then again, I also wanted to see 'Four Square' made into an official event when I was 8, so maybe I'm just talking out of my ass...
Should be commended as a precursor to a pandemic fad that is costing teens (and their parents) millions daily.
*** (of ****)
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