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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

betrayal and intrigue

Author: ntsci from canada
14 May 2004

Previous comments seem to be either one of extreme hate or pleasure. I find the extremes fascinating. I think this movie was average. Not great, but worthwhile watching. One that you need to watch twice to get the point. I found no part of it boring. The use of poker in the title has to do with the bluffing, faking, lying and not showing all of ones cards.

On the whole it is much better in terms of the story than most action films.

If plots making sense was a requirement for a good movie, then I guess there are very very few movies worth watching. The plot for example of Master and Commander, a movie I really enjoyed, was based on an absurd disregard for the navel power situation in 1805 wherein Britian had obtained complete mastery over the oceans (e.g., Battle of the Nile, 1803). So why should we attack Four Dogs for a gimmicky premise. Name a movie that doesn't involve some gimmick or suspension of disbelief to get the ball rolling.

To me the only unexplained part is why the bad guy wants a million from them, but that might also be part of the double crossing.

In Four Dogs, the fact that so called friends agree so easily to kill one another was one of the points -- their friendship wasn't worth a half million. It must also be kept in mind that they were being manipulating into agreeing with the idea and it was done so subtly that it is not until you see the movie for the second time that you can see the manipulations that are going one. There's actually a lot of subtly in the movie. But also notice how several members of the group were all prepared to double cross the rest. The main double crosser however did give at least one of them a chance.

It is very doubtful that the insurance scam idea would work, but the main characters didn't clue into the main problem with it -- back dating the payments on the policies -- thats a whole lotta fraud. But its a mute point, there is never any mention at the end of the film about cashing the policies in! Suggesting that the whole insurance scam was part of the doublecrossing plots and a bluff. It isn't important how fast the money will be paid out, whats important is that they players in this high stakes game, think that cashing in the policy on one of them, will save the rest.

The fact that the ships crew had a Mexican accent (I'm assuming that the Argentinian commentator meant accent, not language, cause the language is the same), isn't that surprising since the ship has an English name and is headed toward Los Angeles (home of a very large Mexican population) -- so its more likely to have a Mexican speaking crew than an Argentinian crew.

The whys or practicalities of the movies aren't really the main issues. The most interesting part of the movie is the crisis, the cut throat solution they come up with, how they are manipulated into the solution, and how the solution unravels (as planned).

There a very interesting thing going on when one of the characters asks another if he could really kill her.

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Good premise, poorly done

Author: Blockmary from Midwest
15 June 2003


Four Dogs Playing Poker had a very good premise. Unfortunately, the plot gaps kill the movie. The following are issues I had with the movie:

1. In a game of life or death, they let one person go into the bank to place the life insurance policies in the safe deposit boxes. Ultimately, this leads to the demise of the other characters. Are you kidding me?? Gee, you think she might cheat the other people and save her own life?? Surely not. Lets trust her to go in alone.

2. There is no way they could have collected on life insurance policies that quickly, especially in a situation as suspicious as it would have been.

3. Incriminating messages are left on various answering machines. These people are apparently not too bright.

I will stop at this point, although I could go on forever. The acting was mediocre AT BEST. A couple of scenes were really corny, including the leaping between buildings and the woman falling off the ladder. If you are looking for a movie that is realistic, this is absolutely not it.

5 out of 10.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

No ace, more a joker.

Author: sibisi73 from United Kingdom
27 December 2001

A stylish thriller, with one major let-down: the whole premise is just so unbelievable that you really need to be able to suspend your disbelief for this one.

Four young art thieves, and their mentor (a surprisingly good, but underused Tim Curry), steal a priceless statue from an Argentinian millionaire, (a surprisingly good, but underused ex-James Bond, George Lazenby!) and ship it back to the States on a cargo ship. Recipient of the said statue hears that it isn't on the ship, and promises to kill all five if it isn't delivered - or make them pay $1 million. So, what would you do? Wait and see if it turns up, do a runner and leave the country? Or build up some elaborate insurance scam whereby one of you has to kill another one, so the rest of the gang can claim $1 million insurance? They opt for the latter, and all reality goes out of the window. It's a shame, because the four 'friends' are good together, and there are some genuine thrilling moments. Its pretensions to film noir are justified an only a few occasions, and the 'twist' ending doesn't really make up for the plotholes.

That said, certainly worth a look.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Smart cross between "Usual Suspects" and "Shallow Grave". Two thumbs way up!

Author: Movieguy-53
4 June 2000

I got to see a test screening of the film noir `Four Dogs Playing Poker' and I was blown away. It was awesome. The director was able to spin a sensational story about a group of friends who, after participating in a heist gone awry, are forced to ante up with their lives and participate in a deadly game to correct their mistake. Even though this sounds cool, trust me – the film is cooler. My little description does not do the film justice! This movie would be best described a sophisticated cross between `The Usual Suspects' and `Shallow Grave'. And from the opening scene in an Argentina, I was immediately hooked. In fact, I sat on the edge of my seat (literally) until the film was over – my palms were sweating. When I was told the film was over 90 minutes, I couldn't believe it!

Forest Whitaker, who plays a dangerous art dealer named Mr. Ellington, was truly intimidating - the filmmakers really captured Forest's dark side. Also, it was great to see Tim Curry finally sink his teeth into a serious role. He was terrific as Felix, the shady ‘snake-in-the-grass' mentor to the four main characters. Olivia Williams (`The Sixth Sense', `Rushmore') is great as Audrey. After watching her performances in `Rushmore', `Sixth Sense' and `Four Dogs Playing Poker', I have no doubts that Olivia will become a household name on par with the likes of Bridgette Fonda, Patricia Arquette and Angelina Jolie. Balthazar Getty (`The Lost Highway') plays his macho but confused character perfectly and with a healthy dose of charisma. I have always been a big fan of Balthazar's – he looks great on film. Stacy Edwards (`In the Company of Men', `Primary Colors') portrays her character perfectly as an innocent ‘tough girl'. Stacy's strong performance imbues the down and out group with a requisite touch of humanity. Watching Daniel London (`Patch Adams') is a real treat. His character, a paranoid druggie, is just as hilarious and he is unpredictable and dangerous. Daniel does a good job providing much of the comic relief in the film. Everyone in the theater was laughing at his antics! There were also some great scenes where Steve Jones, former guitarist from the Sex Pistols, and John Taylor, former bass from Duran Duran, get to strut their acting chops as Mr. Ellington's henchmen. George Lazenby (James Bond from `On Her Majesty's Secret Service') also makes an appearance – and in a Bond-esque tuxedo no less!

All in all `Four Dogs Playing Poker' a fresh and exciting entry onto a tired landscape of today's cinema. I will be very excited to drag my friends to the theaters to watch it again!

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Good idea. NOT the worst movie in the world. Worth a watch.

Author: HellBoy13 from NYC
4 October 2004

What's the concept behind the painting "Four Dogs Playing Poker"? Poker is a game of luck, but winning involves bluffing, lying, and aggressiveness. Dogs think they can handle these human traits, but they're just dogs. Predictable. Emotional. Easy tells.

This movie is about four childhood friends who are all in danger of dying.

To save themselves, they concoct a scheme to sacrifice one of them for the sake of the others. But they want to keep things anonymous to alleviate guilt, and that's where they stop trusting each other. Like four dogs playing poker, trying to figure out the other dogs' motives, not knowing who to trust...

The details sometimes fall by the wayside in order to set up this very interesting idea, but I found the story itself to be gripping. I had to watch the whole thing to see what happened.

Can you trust YOUR childhood friends if all your lives were on the line?

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

could have been a lot better

Author: Mickey Knox ( from Brasov, Romania
13 April 2002

The idea of this movie is brilliant and it could have led the script towards a totally different perspective of the action. Although some scenes are obviously forced, and higly unlikely, the movie captures you till the end. The dilema, the game to decide the killer and the victim, could have provided much more psychological moments than it actually does, and that would have made the movie better. Unfortunately, after the middle of the film, it becomes a simple action movie with simple and way too predictable events. All in all, a good idea, a nice watch, but it's a pity - it could have been great. Vote: 5 out of 10.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

The title and premise fare better than the film itself

Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
13 April 2015

With such a great title and the premise while a little far-fetched being also brilliant, Four Dogs Playing could have been a very good film. Instead for me it had its fair share of good things but fell short, being a moderately entertaining film at most.

Four Dogs Playing Poker is stylishly made, looking every bit the brooding thriller type of film, complete with atmospheric and not too dim lighting and settings that suit the film well. It's competently directed, the music does have intensity and the story while less than perfect is a lot of time diverting and not too dull. Another thing Four Dogs Playing Poker does well is that it has a fun cast, with the high points being Tim Curry, who's excellent(if very underused) in a more serious role than usual, and an intimidating Forrest Whittaker. Olivia Williams brings a variety of emotions to her role and Balthazar Getty is very charismatic in his.

Sadly, Four Dogs Playing Poker does come up short in other areas. The script is quite weak, being rather underdeveloped and sometimes confused, leaving more questions than answers with some "comedy" parts instead feeling flat and misplaced. Despite the cast giving their all the film does a not particularly good job making their characters interesting, with almost all of them being one-dimensional and clichéd and the most experienced cast members(i.e. Curry) not being in long enough). Four Dogs Playing Poker is hurt by the predictability of the second half, weakening the fun and suspense that the film started off with, which also becomes increasingly preposterous, in want of more explanation and lacking in momentum. By the time the twist came I found myself not caring very much for who the perpetrator was.

Overall, great title and premise but doesn't quite deliver as much as it could have done. Disappointing, but hardly a time-waster. 5/10 Bethany Cox

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Surprsingly amusing

Author: ruud-35 from Netherlands
26 January 2008

I bought this DVD for 2 euro 90 at a gas station. So my expectations where not that high. When i buy a movie like this with some famous actors, I don't expect it to be good, but you never know. Am i watching a mistake of a famous actor. I really love Forest Whittaker, and after watching the movie nothing is changed about that. He probably red the script and saw the possibilities. Anyway Looking from this angle, i always expect to stop halfway the DVD and continue doing something else. Because the price was so cheap, that there would be no other option than a bad movie This movie is indeed not fantastic, the acting is poor and over the top, but it is a movie which keeps you watching. In fact i felt some fear watching the end. So my 2 euro 90 where well spent. But i do agree that the end result could have been much better. Intriguing movie, not very well done, but amusing and worth watching! I still try to understand if i understood the whole movie. But who cares for 2 euro 90

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The title's better than the film

Author: JoeytheBrit from
2 July 2008

Four friends, Julian (Balthazar Getty), Audrey (Olivia Williams), Holly (Stacy Edwards), and Kevin (Daniel London), are recruited by bar owner Felix (Tim Curry) to steal a statuette from a wealthy Argentinian collector for crooked dealer, Mr. Ellington (Forrest Whittaker). Having successfully pinched the statuette and shipped it to America, the group's celebrations are interrupted by Ellington, who advises them that he has been informed that the statuette is not aboard the ship. Telling the group he will require $1 million compensation from them if it doesn't arrive or he will have them executed, Ellington later proceeds to have Felix bumped off to show he's not kidding. The frantic four, on discovering the statuette is indeed missing, hit on a bizarre plan whereby each will take out $1 million life insurance and one of them will kill the other – the deal being only the killer – who is determined by the draw of a card and a safety deposit key – will know who the intended victim is to be.

This movie blew it for me in the first twenty minutes. Having pulled off an incredibly dull heist at a society wedding, we learn that the international art thieves recruited by Curry are in fact an insurance clerk, a shoe salesgirl, a barman, and a druggie, none of whom had ever stolen anything before. Yeah, right. Then, upon being told by Ellington that the statuette – which Curry wrapped in paper and left on top of a crate at the docks! – had gone missing, no-one had the sense to ask how he came by this information. But, hey, if they'd done that they might have resolved everything in the first half-hour, and then we wouldn't have been able to enjoy the 'brilliant' idea first-time writers Shawn David Thompson and William Quist dreamed up. The idea itself – the paranoia arising out of one of four people having to kill the other with only the killer knowing who the victim is to be – isn't a bad one, but is almost impossible to work into a movie without using some pretty tortuous plot devices to shoehorn it in. An experienced, quality writer might at least manage to entertain us anyway, but the script for this movie is pedestrian at best and downright bad most of the time. The characters are strictly one-dimensional, given no background whatsoever, and all come across as a bad lot who are simply getting what they deserve, so we don't care who the killer or the intended victim is. And, if they had behaved true to what minimal characterisation the writers have given them, they would all have high-tailed it the moment they discovered they weren't the killer and therefore had a one-in-three chance of being the victim. Even the supposed twist at the end comes as no real surprise.

The only good things about this movie are old pro's Tim Curry and Forrest Whitaker (who must have both been short of decent offers back in 2000), but they're on screen for maybe fifteen minutes at the most. The rest of the cast are uniformly unmemorable which, unfortunately, this movie isn't going to be, because it's so bad it's going to keep coming back like a dodgy prawn supper. This is a dire film, whose only appropriate fate is to gather dust on the shelves of the nation's DVD rental outlets.

Cool title, though.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A Weak Screenplay

Author: aimless-46 from Kentucky
14 February 2006

You gotta like the "4 Dogs Playing Poker" title but you won't find any of those "dogs sitting around a poker table" pictures in this film. Instead the four dogs are four twenty-something characters recruited by Tim Curry to steal a priceless statuette for a crooked art dealer (Forest Whitaker). Things go wrong and they spend the majority of the movie trying to extricate themselves from their predicament.

They finally settle on a plan to take out back dated life insurance policies and randomly kill one of themselves, using the insurance money to square their account with Whitaker. If all this sounds a bit contrived to you, it might be wise to avoid this film as it requires considerable suspension of logic during the viewing, and even more later when you reflect back on the unexpected twists taken by the story.

The worst part of the whole experience is that aside from the massive plot holes the film is pretty entertaining; making it a frustrating experience since just a little bit of inventiveness by the writer could have successfully closed those holes.

The film wastes little time getting going as the carefully planned theft is already in progress as the titles roll. The team displays just the right mix of amateurism and luck to build some nice suspense and their consignment of the statuette to the purser of a freighter provides some nice ambiguity and foreshadowing.

Things slow down for the remainder of the film and the logic of subsequent events is a bit dodgy. You are unlikely to guess the ending because the director provides insufficient clues. Had there been sufficient information revealed in a form disguised by clever misdirection, "4 Dogs Playing Poker" would have been a real treat.

The most effective tool that the writer/director of suspense films has is the power to show only what they want the viewer to see. This combines with the ability to draw the eye to certain things in the frame and to distract the viewer from more important clues. Manipulating the viewer up to a point but then allowing them free rein to invest each development with their own interpretation (insert "Sixth Sense" and "Kansas City" here). Unfortunately "4 Dogs Playing Poker" simply withholds any important clues. Viewer hindsight does not reveal any reason to feel guilty about not guessing the outcome nor to feel thrilled at being cleverly fooled.

"4 Dogs" has good physical casting with decent performances from the entire ensemble, Curry is excellent and Olivia Williams shows considerable range as there is mega distance between her character here and her extraordinary performance in "Rushmore". Balthazar Getty's close resemblance to Charlie Sheen is distracting but not really a problem.

But to be very good, a small movie like "4 Dogs" must give the viewer complex and realistic characters, particularly when the last half of the movie is more character study than action adventure or psychological thriller. Unfortunately that does not happen and all we end up with are one-dimensional stereotypes that we have no reason to care about. Apparently in their desire to reveal no clues about the resolution, the writer and director excluded anything that might have passed for characterization.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.

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