the fresh films reviews

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Rounders (1998)

Director:
John Dahl

COUNTRY
USA

Genre
Drama
NORWEGIAN TITLE
Siste spill

RUNNING TIME
121 minutes

Producers:
Ted Demme
Joel Stillerman
Screenwriters:
David Levien
Brian Koppelman


Cast includes:

CHARACTER ACTOR/ACTRESS RATING
Mike McDermott Matt Damon
Lester 'Worm' Murphy Edward Norton
Jo Gretchen Mol
Joey Knish John Turturro
Teddy KGB John Malkovich
Petra Famke Janssen
Sergeant Detweiler Murphy Guyer -
Grama Michael Rispoli
Judge Abe Petrovsky Martin Landau
Barbara Melina Kanakaredes -
Zagosh Josh Mostel -
Judge Marinacci Tom Aldredge -

 

Review

Right at the dawn of internet poker and the Texas Hold'em explosion, director John Dahl (The Last Seduction) made this moody, atmospheric piece about a talented poker player (Matt Damon) and his out-of-luck hustler friend (Edward Norton). The script by the young writer team of David Levien and Brian Koppelman was remarkably insightful about poker technicalities by 1998 standards, even if it probably overembellished the gangster part of the underground poker scene. From a poker point of view, however, there is no doubt that Rounders helped promote the game in general and Hold'em in particular to a wider audience. And thanks to Dahl's seductive combo of offbeat aesthetics and traditional pay-offs, the film quickly gained a cult following which it has preserved over the next quarter of a century, and deservedly so. There's something upliftingly recognizable about the inevitability of Mike's choices and Worm's downfall. It may be determinism, but it's a sweet, melancholy determinism from which there still seems to be endless opportunities. And the effect is made all the more evocative thanks to Christopher Young's gloomy jazz score and Jean-Yves Escoffier's beautiful photography. There are fine performances from the two young leads and superb supporting work in the form of a tender Martin Landau and a wonderfully stylized John Malkovich, whose Teddy KGB has a vitality and peculiarity only Malkovich could create. Granted, he's a distraction, but what a delightful one at that.

Re-reviewed: Copyright 06.04.2022 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: Copyright 16.12.1999 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang