7.3/10
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301 user 131 critic

Rounders (1998)

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A young, reformed gambler must return to playing big stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks, while balancing his relationship with his girlfriend and his commitments to law school.

Director:

John Dahl
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Popularity
3,703 ( 354)
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Matt Damon ... Mike McDermott
Gretchen Mol ... Jo
John Malkovich ... Teddy KGB
Paul Cicero Paul Cicero ... Russian Thug
Ray Iannicelli ... Kenny
John Turturro ... Joey Knish
Merwin Goldsmith Merwin Goldsmith ... Sy
Sonny Zito Sonny Zito ... Tony
Josh Mostel ... Zagosh
Mal Z. Lawrence ... Irving
Lenny Clarke ... Savino
Peter Yoshida Peter Yoshida ... Henry Lin
Jay Boryea Jay Boryea ... Russian Thug #2
Lenny Venito ... Moogie
Martin Landau ... Abe Petrovsky
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Storyline

John Dahl directed this exploration of New York private clubs devoted to high-stakes poker, with first-person narration from the film's central figure, law student Mike McDermott (Matt Damon), who loses his entire savings to Russian club owner Teddy KGB (John Malkovich). Mike then turns away from cards, devoting his attentions to his law studies and his live-in girlfriend Jo (Gretchen Mol), who's concerned when Mike's former gambling buddy Worm (Edward Norton) is released from prison. She has good reason to worry, since it takes Worm only a matter of minutes to draw Mike back into poker action. When she learns Mike has returned to the poker clubs, she moves out, and Mike begins to lose interest in his studies. Worm has a prison debt, and the threatening Grama (Michael Rispoli) wants the money. Mike not only indulges the irresponsible Worm, he gets involved in Worm's debts. When Grama demands $15,000 on a five-day deadline, the two buddies go into high gear with a non-stop, no-sleep ...

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

You've got to play the hand you're dealt. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for pervasive strong language, some sexuality and brief drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Hebrew | Russian

Release Date:

11 September 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Apuesta final See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$12,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$8,459,126, 13 September 1998, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$22,905,674, 8 November 1998
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Miramax,Spanky Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The playing cards used during both games at KGB's place are a deck of red and a deck of blue backed Arrow-design, standard index, wide plastic cellulose-acetate cards of the KEM range manufactured by the United States Playing Card Co. See more »

Goofs

Mike tells worm that Binghamton, NY is five hours each way (from New York City). It is only a three hour drive. See more »

Quotes

Mike McDermott: [narrating while playing against teddy KGB] Here's the beauty of this game: I just got top two pair on the flop and I want to keep him in the hand. Against your average guy, I'd set a "bear trap", hardly bet at all, let him walk into it. But KGB's too smart for that. So, what I've got to do is over bet the pot,make it look like I'm trying to buy it.
Mike McDermott: I bet two thousand
Mike McDermott: [narrating] Then he plays back at me, and I get paid off.
Teddy KGB: [...]
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Soundtracks

Chitlins Con Carne
Written by Kenny Burrell
Performed by The Johnny Lewis Quartet
Courtesy of Ubiquity Recordings, Inc./Luv N'Haight Records
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Well made but eventually a bit thin for anyone not a poker fan
25 May 2013 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

Rounders (1998)

A charming idea, almost romanticized: if you are young, clever, good looking, and savvy at playing poker you can be ultra cool and maybe even wealthy. That makes for a pretty good movie, if not a very accurate reality. It isn't quite enough to keep two hours going, however, and so the big picture here is to enjoy what it has.

A quick comparison might be made to "The Hustler" and related pool shark movies. And like that classic, "Rounders" is about charming deceit. Matt Damon is the main man here, an ex-poker champ who has "gone straight" until his former partner in crime, Ed Norton, gets out of jail and ropes him back into the thrills and malevolence. Like the pool movies, and like the glitzier and more ambitious "Oceans" movies, personalities matter most. The setting, the glint of money, and most of all the plots matter less than you'd think.

So everything is pretty good along those lines, partly because Damon is fun to be with and Norton is simply terrific. An embarrassing appearance in the beginning and end of the movie by an overacting John Malkovich gets in the way of Damon's performance, however. And the general attempt at creating a bunch of bad guys behind the scenes is filled with thin clichés and mediocre acting.

This is the result of having to make more of the story that was ever there. The main idea--that the two leads get into money trouble and have to earn a ton of cash in a few days of wild poker games--is eventually actually a bit of a bore. The gamesmanship is always interesting, of course, but the impetus behind it grows old. The addition of Martin Landau as a Jewish lawyer who gives Damon a mitzvah as a kind of honor paid to continue a favor once given him is a touching part of the larger plot, making you wish there was more of this somehow, more of something genuine and a bit different.

It might not have helped that I recently saw "Croupier" with a young Clive Owen as a poker dealer, because that movie, whatever its simplicity and other limitations, actually made the poker scenes more real for me. In fact, one problem with "Rounders" is you never get to actually sense the betting itself, and the cards--the playing and the strategies of playing--are glossed over with some tossing of chips and flipping of cards, all in a vague muddle.

I did enjoy watching overall, but it left me a little disappointed and restless.


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