The Mississippi Gambler

Fine Western Drama in The Mississippi Gambler

From Hollywood’s golden age, The Mississippi Gambler combines impressive sets, lavish costumes and a large cast in a sequence of eye-catching set-pieces, to tell a tale of high-stakes card play and, of course, a somewhat melodramatic love story. Made in 1953, The Mississippi Gambler stars Tyrone Power and Piper Laurie, along with a solid cast of supporting players.

The film was directed by Rudolph Mate and filmed in Technicolor, which at the time still counted as an added attraction. It is set in the late 19th Century, and the action takes place in the gambling saloons of Mississippi riverboats and in New Orleans. The Mississippi Gambler was one of Power’s last films, as he was focusing more on stage work in the last years of his life. It also helped establish Laurie as a leading lady, and performed well at the box office to favourable reviews from the critics.

Promoting Legitimate Gambling

The plot of The Mississippi Gambler centres on Power’s character, Mark Fallon, a New Yorker who has relocated to the Mississippi riverboats with the intention of running clean Poker games, in contrast to the many crooked card sharps working the river. He impresses an old gambler by the name of Kansas John Polly, and the two team up for a trip down the river. They meet the rich and dishonest F. Montague Caldwell, and after Mark exposes him as a cheat and demands a new pack of cards, he cleans up the table.

the-mississippi-gambler-stars-tyrone-power-and-piper-laurie

Among the losers is Laurent, a young man whose sister, Angelique, Mark had met earlier and developed an interest in. Angelique is played by Piper Laurie. Laurent steals his sister’s diamond necklace to pay his debt to Mark, and when Mark tries to return it to Angelique, she proudly rebuffs him. Mark and Kansas John have to flee the boat when Caldwell and a group of henchman try to ambush them.

Hopeless Loves Lead to Duels                                                                   

The Mississippi Gambler capitalises on Power’s reputation as an action hero; when he’s not the suave gambler at the tables, he’s a two-fisted battler. After the fight on the riverboat, Mark arrives in New Orleans and rediscovers his passion for fencing, learnt from his father, who was a master fencer. At the fencing academy, he meets Angelique and Laurent’s father, an honourable old New Orleans grandee by the name of Edmond Dureau.

He and Mark strike up a friendship, despite his children’s antipathy to the gambler. Denying that she has any feelings for Mark, Angelique marries a banker. Mark opens a successful casino, but when he tries to help out Ann, the sister of an unlucky gambler who killed himself, Laurent happens to meet Ann and fall in love with her. She, of course, is in love with Mark, who is not interested in her because he is still pining for Angelique, so impetuous Laurent challenges Mark to a duel.

Disaster and Redemption

In a fit of panic, Laurent fires early in the duel, disgracing himself. Mark compounds his humiliation by refusing to shoot him. When someone else casts aspersions on Mark’s relationship with Ann in Edmond’s hearing, Edmond also initiates a duel, in which he is mortally wounded.

Mark promises that he will protect Angelique as Edmond lies on his deathbed. When Angelique’s banker husband absconds with the funds of several clients, including Mark’s casino, Angelique is left abandoned and Mark is again penniless. He returns to riverboat gambling, but this time, Angelique has decided where her heart lies, and goes with him.

The Grand

Fun Poker Action in The Grand

There are several features that make The Grand, directed by Zac Penn and released in 2007, stand out among movies set at the Poker table. For a start, The Grand is a comedy, not a gritty thriller. Secondly, it also has an impressive cast, including Woody Harrelson, Dennis Farina, Hank Azaria, Ray Romano, and legendary film director Werner Herzog.

The most unusual attribute of The Grand, however, is its improvised script. Penn and the actors worked on defining their characters, but all the dialogue in the film is improvised by the actors, as they play in a real poker tournament. This is The Grand, a Texas Hold’em Poker tournament held in Las Vegas. The action was filmed at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas strip.

Quirky Characters Hold Interest

The charm of The Grand lies in the larger-than-life characters it assembles. Harrelson plays an addict who has relapsed so often, he now lives in rehab permanently. He’s also a serial monogamist, with 75 failed marriages behind him, and he’s always ready for number 76. He needs to win the tournament for the $10-million prize, so that he can save the family casino he inherited and then ran disastrously.

the-grand-however-is-its-improvised-script

Farina plays a crusty old Vegas gambler, and Herzog is a cheat who practises ritual animal sacrifice to bring him luck at the cards. The rest of the players include a pair of bickering twins, a momma’s boy who also happens to be a genius, and a maths teacher. The cast also includes several professional Poker players, including Phil Laak, Phil Gordon and Daniel Negreanu.

Lukewarm Reception on Release                                                             

The Grand got mixed reviews from critics on its release, and the US box office was disappointing. The film made back less than $115,000, which is a commercial failure, considering the budget was $3-million. Nevertheless, many Poker fans do enjoy the movie, with many rating it much higher than Penn’s big-budget superhero films.

The improvised performances are key to the film’s appeal. The storylines may seem a bit basic, but the dialogue that the actors came up with in character keeps it tripping along at a decent pace. The actors are all funny people in real life, and the freedom to play around while making up their own lines inspired some great moments and very funny scenes.

Playful Comedy Well Worth a Look

“Playful” is probably the best word to describe The Grand overall. The actors all love Poker, and they seem to be having real fun improvising with each other. There are plenty of other Poker- and casino-themed movies for those who want thrills or intense dramas.

Running at just over 100 minutes, The Grand is for those looking for undemanding fun with a Poker theme. Getting to see some familiar stars let their hair down and make it up as they go along is an unexpected bonus. The film’s tagline, “A comedy about the fine art of losing”, may be very apt when referring to the Poker play, but no one in this cast is a loser in the acting stakes.

The Gambler 2014

The Gambler is a Solid Remake

The Gambler, directed by Rupert Wyatt and released in 2014, is a remake of the 1974 film of the same name, starring James Caan. This version stars Mark Wahlberg as the gambler of the title, and just like the original film, his compulsive illegal betting gets him into serious trouble. Producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff also produced the 1974 version.

Like Caan’s character, Mark Wahlberg’s Jim Bennet is a literature professor, although he is based in Los Angeles, not New York. While the original film focused on Dostoyevsky’s theories about the will to manifest a desire, the philosophy behind the 2014 film is well expressed in the tagline: the only way out is all in. It explores a similar theme, however: the self-destructive urges that drive a man who can only feel alive when he is risking everything.

Gambling into a Mountain of Debt

Wahlberg’s Jim is also a gambling addict, and even an inheritance from his wealthy grandfather doesn’t help; he gambles everything away and ends up in debt to the ruthless owner of an underground gambling operation. He also owes a loan shark; the crux of the matter is that he needs almost $300,000 in seven days, or he will be murdered.

the-gambler-2014-has-a-more-upbeat-ending

Like the gambler in the original movie, Jim tries several schemes to save himself. He tries borrowing from another loan shark, but pulls out when the guy humiliates him. He eventually bullies his mother, played by Jessica Lange, into giving him the money, but instead of paying his debts, he gambles it all away on a trip to a casino with one of his students, who has a crush on him.

Into a Downward Spiral                                                                                

Eventually, Jim is forced to bribe a college basketball star in one of his classes into throwing a game, so Jim can square his debts with the various mobsters threatening him. But his winnings from the fixed basketball game still don’t cover his debts, so the film climaxes in a Roulette showdown between Jim and a loan shark.

The original film ended with Caan getting into a brutal ghetto fight, trying to capture the rush he got gambling. The Gambler 2014 has a more upbeat ending, but the character arc Jim experiences is very similar to that in the original movie.

Legal Gambling is Much Safer

The Gambler is an entertaining film with a strong cast, containing some fairly obvious lessons on the folly of leaving a gambling addiction untreated. Like the 1974 film, however, the film also makes a subtle point about the difference between legal and illegal gambling.

Basically, in a legal casino or online gambling site, the player has recourse to the law if they are cheated. There are regulations in place to keep casinos honest. In the seamy underworld of illegal gambling, however, the player is on their own. If they end up spending more than they can afford, or the game is rigged, they face nasty physical consequences, without even getting the thrill of winning. As life lessons go, that’s pretty straightforward.

The Gambler

The Gambler; 70s Social Drama Still Relevant

The Gambler, produced by Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff for Paramount Pictures in 1974, is a typical example of the gritty realism in films of the time, exploring social issues that Hollywood had previously ignored or sugar-coated. It stars James Caan as Axel Freed, the gambler of the title, a Harvard-educated English professor at a New York college whose life spirals out of control as he succumbs to his gambling addiction.

Fans of 70s architecture, design and fashion will find a wealth of retro interest in the visuals, from Caan’s permed ’fro and chest-baring shirts to the blocky radios, cars and buildings. There is also a tendency to plaster clashing patterns across every available surface, including the cast. The score, by Jerry Fielding, is adapted from Mahler, and helps turn The Gambler into a drama that develops like a thriller. Fans of James Woods will enjoy seeing him in an early role as an officious bank clerk.

the-gambler-70s-social-drama-still

Based on Real-Life Experience

The screenplay for The Gambler was written by James Toback, who in real life was a college English professor with a gambling addiction. Toback’s tale can be linked very loosely to a Dostoyevsky novella of the same name, as both stories explore the compulsive urge that drives gamblers, even when they have won big and should simply walk away from the game. Desire, and the will to attain a desire by that act of will, is at the heart of the philosophy both stories contemplate.

The Gambler was directed by Karel Reisz, who had made his name in cinema realism with Saturday Night And Sunday Morning in 1960. His most famous film is most probably The French Lieutenant’s Woman, starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons, released in 1981.

Plot a Sequence of Wasted Chances                                                       

The Gambler begins with Axel in his safe, comfortable life, lecturing English students on the ideas expounded by Dostoyevsky. But the love of his partner, Billie, played by Lauren Hutton, and of his successful doctor mother and rich grandfather, is soon contrasted with his other life. He’s in debt to the tune of $44,000 to a bookie, Hips, played by Paul Sorvino, after a run of disastrous sports bets.

If he doesn’t pay up, Hips’ muscle will start breaking his limbs. Alex borrows the money from his mother, but instead of paying Hips, he heads to Vegas where he wins a fortune. But he loses it all betting on sports again. When his grandfather turns down his plea for help, Axel is forced even further into the corrupt underbelly of illegal sports betting. He pays his debt, but ends up seeking violent confrontation. He has to bleed just to know he’s alive.

A Stark Look at Gaming Pitfalls

As a cautionary tale about the dangers of addiction, The Gambler received generally positive responses from critics and audiences. What is often overlooked, however, is the film’s subtext concerning legal and illegal gambling. In the Vegas segment, Axel is a winner, whether he’s playing craps, baccarat or blackjack. Of course, gambling is legal in Las Vegas.

All Axel’s problems with debt and threats of physical harm, on the other hand, are the result of his involvement in illegal sports betting, which necessitates him mingling with bookies, loan sharks and mobsters. It is this world that engineers his downfall. The film makes a very subtle point.

Saratoga

Saratoga; Gable and Harlow’s Final Film Together

The romantic comedy Saratoga, produced by MGM and released in 1937, is the last of six films that Clark Gable and Jean Harlow starred in together. It was also Harlow’s final film; in fact, she died shortly before shooting was complete. MGM initially wanted to recast and reshoot the film, but Harlow’s fans protested so vociferously that the film was completed with a stand-in, shot from behind or with her costume obscuring her face.

The film made a profit at the box office and was well received by critics. Of course, it had a built-in audience among the thousands of grieving Harlow fans, who flocked to see their idol one last time. The dialogue sounds slightly corny to modern ears, but at the time the repartee between Gable and Harlow was a popular draw-card. Saratoga also includes some exciting horseracing scenes, to add thrills to the romantic comedy.

The Bookie and the Gold Digger

The action in Saratoga revolves around thoroughbred horses. Gable plays Duke, a bookmaker who acquires the deeds to the Clayton family stud farm in payment for a gambling debt. The Clayton daughter, Carol returns from England with a wealthy fiancé after the death of her father, and tries to buy the stud farm back from Duke. He calls her out on her plan to marry for money, and the two begin a stormy feud that can only end one way.

saratoga-revolves-around-thoroughbred-horses

The rest of the story is the traditional mix of schemes, misunderstandings and fights that lead eventually to true love. There is a good deal of horse racing, which at the time was the most popular sport in the USA. Scenes were shot at actual race meetings in Louisville, Kentucky and Saratoga, New York, so the massive crowds seen on screen are authentic.

Typical Gable and Harlow Romance                                                        

Part of the success of Saratoga is due to the partnership between Gable and Harlow; they had already established a solid chemistry in five earlier films. She excelled at playing beautiful, strong-willed but uptight women, initially convinced that he was way beneath her. Gable specialised in a trademark loucheness; he was a straight-talking self-made man who could seduce women, while infuriating them with his sly grin and barbed quips at the same time.

Together, with him being laconic and calculating, and her being no less of a schemer but with a good deal more nervous energy, they played the rom-com formula perfectly. In Saratoga, their relationship moves from mutual antagonism to flirtatious banter to deeply in love as a natural progression, as they each discover the true self that the other tries to hide under a spiky exterior.

Coping with a Star’s Death

Nine tenths of the shooting for Saratoga had been completed when Harlow collapsed on set. She succumbed to kidney failure a week later, thought to be exacerbated by sunstroke and an infection from impacted wisdom teeth. When an outcry from fans prevented recasting, actress Mary Dees was brought in suitably disguised, to play the rest of Harlow’s scenes onscreen. Harlow’s voice for these scenes was provided by Paula Winslowe.

Player 5150

Player 5150, Uneven but Memorable Film

Shot on the relatively low budget of $2-million and released in 2008, Player 5150 is a lesser-known gambling film that got mixed responses from reviewers and audiences. Critics and viewers alike tend to agree, however, that the film’s three leads, Ethan Embry, Kathleen Robertson and Christopher McDonald, deliver standout performances.

The main drawback is an unevenness in the plotting. What starts as a tense thriller about a man in debt to his bookies meanders into relationship melodrama in the middle section, before resuming the thriller style for the denouement. Despite this imbalance, however, Player 5150’s story is compelling enough to maintain interest.

A Familiar Scenario

Embry plays Joey, a California day trader who moves millions of dollars around daily, but still craves extra thrills. He’s a compulsive gambler, betting illegally on sports games all over the US. Of course, this means he has to mingle with the criminal underworld, personified in Player 5150 by McDonald as the bookie Tony, and his massive henchman Beno, played by Bob Sapp.

player-5150-is-a-lesser-known-gambling-film

Already in debt to the tune of $60,000, Joey places a $40,000 bet in the hopes of covering some of what he owes. Of course, it doesn’t come off, and he ends up with one weekend in which to try to raise $100,000, or face serious physical harm. The bulk of the film is devoted to his quest to raise the cash, and the effect it has on his relationship with his wife, Ali, played by Roberston.

Layers Within Layers                                                                                      

Player 5150 is David Michael O’Neill’s second film as a director, after the 1999 black comedy Five Aces, which also starred McDonald, along with Charlie Sheen. For Player 5150, he seems to have taken his lead from the crime films of British directors like Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn. The plot is layered with subplots; there’s a college kid who is also in debt to Tony, and one of Joey’s clients in his stock-broking firm turns out to be a mob boss even higher up the food chain than Tony.

O’Neill weaves these threads together in an interesting tapestry. The scenes showing various mobsters intimidating indebted clients, for example, are mirrors of each other, but the muscle lower down on the totem pole can only manage a cruder version of the subtle menace that their bosses are capable of.

Focus Not Always Maintained

While this plot layering adds interest, it is also perhaps the reason why the film isn’t 100 per cent satisfying. O’Neill seems to lose focus, so not all the loose ends are tied up, and some of the sub-plots remain unresolved. Kelly Carlson of Nip/Tuck fame appears as Tony’s girlfriend, but she doesn’t seem relevant to the plot much, and her inclusion suggests she’s only there for the pulling power of her name on the poster.

Despite its flaws, however, the performances keep Player 5150 watchable throughout. Embry and Robertson are especially good; he spirals downwards from thrill-seeker to self-destructive addict, and she gives an excellent portrayal of a woman trying to cope with the man she loves falling apart.

Golden Night

Dark French Surrealism Explored in Golden Night

Golden Night, also known as Nuit d’Or, is the sort of film that will interest lovers of film noir, weird explicit imagery and the dense surrealism of the auteur cinema that flourished in Europe in the second half of the 20th Century. Released in 1976, it’s a dark tale of revenge and depravity, so it’s not for the faint of heart.

It’s also a timely reminder to gaming fans that not too long ago, the gambling world often involved illegal dens and players having to mix with all sorts of underworld types, many of them brutal and mentally unstable. It is, thankfully, a world far removed from the legal land-based and online casinos that more enlightened legislation now allows millions of players to enjoy all over the globe.

Michel Fournier Takes his Twisted Vengeance

The Golden Night storyline follows Michel Fournier, a petty criminal who has come back from the dead to wreak vengeance on all the people, including other family members, who engineered his downfall. He kidnaps his young niece, and uses her to taunt the policeman who was also complicit in his demise, threatening to kill her if the cop tries to stop his vengeance.

golden-night-club

At this point, Andree, a bizarre woman who leads an odd religious cult in which Michel was once involved, enters the picture, and she looks after the kidnapped girl while he continues his mission of revenge. Michel explodes violently when he later discovers Andree has tied the girl up, and he releases the child before heading to his favourite gambling spot, the Golden Night club, for the final showdown with the policeman.

Klaus Kinski in Typical Form                                                                        

A synopsis of the plot of Golden Night can’t really do the film justice, as the full effect relies on the rich cinematography and surreal imagery of the noir/auteur genre. Reviewers have likened the film’s visual style to the works of auteurs like Fellini and Bunuel, and it has also been compared to the German Krimi and Italian Giallo pulp fiction/slasher films of a decade earlier. The emphasis on style over substance is evident in several plot holes and other mysteries that are never cleared up, but this shouldn’t worry fans of the genre.

In the leading role, Klaus Kinski gives one of his trademark performances, all wild eyes, depraved evil and sudden explosive bursts of temper. In a career spanning over 40 years, Kinski appeared in more than 130 films, working with some of the top directors in cinema, but also not shy to take jobs with lesser-known luminaries if the money was right. He famously admitted that he chose films based on which had the shortest schedule and offered the most money. However, his ability to inhabit mesmerizingly dark characters saw him work with feature-film greats like Werner Herzog, as well as TV specialists like Serge Moati.

One of Only Three Moati Feature Films

Although director and producer Serge Maoti has had a long and illustrious career in French television, he has directed only three feature films: Yan Diga in 1970, Golden Night in 1976, and Poorly Extinguished Fires in 1994. His classic noir treatment of the night-time streets of Paris in Golden Night, contrasted with rich, surreally coloured interiors, creates a stylised palette that has made this film a cult classic.

Global Gaming Expo

The Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas

In today’s modern society, information is accessible to anyone at any time. International communication and the sharing of information has become the only way to run a business. For the entertainment and gaming industry, the sharing of information brings about new ideas and pushes the industry forward. As such, the best way to ensure that the gaming industry has a future is to hold an annual event where everyone in the industry comes together to share knowledge and display the latest trends and technology. Trade shows help connect industry professionals and display the latest products for the industry. In the world of gaming and entertainment, this event is called the Global Gaming Expo and is held each year in Las Vegas Nevada.

The Sharing of Information

Held by the industry, for the Industry, the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) is an international gaming trade show and conference that is organised by the American Gaming Association (AGA). First held in 2001, the show has quickly established itself as the leading expo for the gaming and entertainment industry. The show is designed to bring together industry professionals to share information, conduct business and learn cutting-edge ways to bring the industry forward. The show offers a full view of the entire gaming industry including table games, slots, online gaming as well as food and hospitality.

global-gaming-expo-in-las-vegas

Who Attends the Expo?

The Global Gaming Expo is organised by Reed Exhibitions (G2E) and is an important function where like-minded professionals can come together to share valuable information about the industry. People who attend the conference work in all aspects of the gaming and entertainment industry. This includes representatives from the following industries: Bingo, Charitable Gaming, Commercial Casinos, Cruise Ships, gaming clubs, iGaming (online gaming), Lotteries, Native American Casinos, Pari-mutuels, Racinos, Resorts, Riverboat or Dockside Casinos as well as other gaming organisations.

The Seminar Program

One of the main reasons for gaming professionals to attend the Global Gaming Expo is to attend the ever-inspiring industry seminars that are held each day during the expo. The G2E seminar program is designed to enhance the ideas and development of individuals and businesses in the gaming industry. The seminar content is fully developed and structured by the industry and for the industry by leading gaming experts. Attendance of the seminars will gives businesses and gaming employees the knowledge and skills they need to move forward in a tough economic environment.

iGaming at the Expo

With online gambling become more and more popular, the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) includes a dedicated section for iGaming and online casinos. The expo incorporates that latest strategies and essential information for companies to navigate through the complicated world of online gaming. The iGaming Zone is where all the top suppliers in the online gaming market will be exhibiting the latest gaming and online casinos software. This is a must visit event for anyone involved in online gaming, its development or implementation. The iGaming Congress is a one day intensive seminar program where the industry address the latest issues facing internet gambling and legislation in the US and around the world.

 

Dr. Mabuse the Gambler

Dr. Mabuse the Gambler; a Long Classic

Dr. Mabuse the Gambler, a black-and-white film made in 1922, will appeal to lovers of classic cinema. To enjoy it, though, one needs to like silent movies, and be prepared to sit through its extraordinary length; the film is 270 minutes long, divided into two parts.

Dr. Mabuse the Gambler was directed by famed German film pioneer Fritz Lang, based on the novels of Norbert Jacques. Lang also made two Dr. Mabuse sequels, with sound. The German title is Dr. Mabuse die Spieler, which plays on the double meaning of the German word; a spieler is either a player in a game, or the puppet-master manipulating those around him. That certainly describes Dr. Mabuse, the master criminal at the heart of the stories. With this in mind, Dr. Mabuse the Player might be a better translation than Dr. Mabuse the Gambler.

dr-mabuse-the-gambler

Convoluted Plot of Gambling and Counterfeiting

As a master of disguise and an expert in hypnosis and mind control, Dr. Mabuse makes a very good living from gambling and crime. He uses his powers to win at cards in gambling houses by night, and uses the proceeds to finance his counterfeiting and racketeering operations. The police start taking an interest in the gambler after he wins a fortune from the son of a rich industrialist, whom he has first mesmerised.

Dr. Mabuse manages to escape a police trap, but he also murders the young man he cheated, who has been helping the police. Dr. Mabuse’s lover, Carozza, is imprisoned for the crime. She won’t betray him, however, and a Countess gets involved in trying to worm the truth out of her. Dr. Mabuse’s revenge is to hypnotise the Countess’ husband, so that he is caught cheating at cards, and Mabuse then abducts the Countess.

Murder and Suicide Abound                                                                      

The second part of the film chronicles Mabuse’s manipulation of the disgraced Count, and his attempts to make sure that his underlings keep their mouths shut. A henchman smuggles poison to Carozza in jail, which she takes out of love for Dr. Mabuse. The crime lord also has one of his henchman killed, fearing another betrayal, and he hypnotises the Count into committing suicide.

As the police close in, Mabuse is trapped in a counterfeiting workshop, tormented by the ghosts of those he has killed. When he is captured, he is confined to an insane asylum.

Great Vintage Cinema

Because of its extraordinary length, Dr. Mabuse the Gambler is not often shown, even in cinemas dedicated to vintage silent movies. Serious movie fans, however, will find it well worth the effort, as it is considered by many to be one of the top films Lang made. It shows of his masterful use of light and shadow, which is vitally important in black-and-white storytelling. The special effects, as in the haunting scene, were state-of-the-art at the time.

Dr. Mabuse the Gambler was released in several versions, most of them cut down from Lang’s original four-and-a-half hours. A Russian edit, made shortly after the film’s release, reduced it to a single film rather than a two-parter. Renowned Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein was a member of the editing team.

Cold Deck

Cold Deck and the Perils of Poker

Cold Deck, director Zack Bernbaum’s second film after his well-received comedy debut And Now A Word From Our Sponsors, was released in December 2015. It wasn’t as successful as his first film, possibly because the gambling drama/thriller is a harder genre to pull off than comedy.

Most critics agree that the film’s biggest problem is its formulaic nature. Cold Deck is about a compulsive gambler screwing up his life as he gets progressively into deeper debt, and Bernbaum seems to have used all the clichés of this format. There’s a beautiful girlfriend desperate to save her man from addiction, a mobster with a pleasant exterior but a ruthless heart, a crazier mobster bent on violence, a sick mother whose life savings get stolen for a Poker game, an off-beat sidekick with wild ideas, and so on.

cold-deck

Gambling Debts Escalate; a Heist is Planned

Despite the pedestrian plotting and clichéd writing, Cold Deck is still a watchable thriller/drama. A cold deck is the same as a stacked deck: a deck of cards that has been carefully arranged to cheat one of the Poker players at a table. For the lead character Bobby, played by Stefano Gallo, the deck is stacked against him from the start, the title seems to imply.

Bobby plays Poker regularly in a game run by mobster Chips, played by veteran Paul Sorvino in the film’s best performance. After a big losing streak, compounded by Bobby’s need to take care of his ailing mother, he is desperate for cash. His best friend convinces him that the only way they can get the money is to rob a high-stakes private game, which has a pot of $250,000. But first they have to talk their way into the game with a $25,000 stake, which they get by selling a stolen car and stealing Bobby’s mother’s life savings possibly to play some online pokies in NZ.

Bad Plan Goes Pear-Shaped                                                                       

When Chips gets wind of the heist, he muscles in on the deal for a percentage. The game proceeds, hosted by the vicious Turk. Bobby manages to pull off the heist successfully, and pay back his mother. He should walk away, but when he learns that his girlfriend once dated Chips, and that Chips once cheated Bobby’s late father, who was also a compulsive gambler, he confronts Chips.

This leads to Chips betraying Bobby and his friend to Turk, and the film moves to a bloody climax. Along the way, it also manages to include one final winner-takes-all Poker game between Chips and Bobby.

The Moral of the Story

For all its faults, Cold Deck is a pleasant enough way to while away 80 minutes. If it has any value as a moral lesson, it should at least convince keen Poker players to stick to legal Poker rooms, whether land-based or online. Although Bobby survives, through pure luck more than anything else, his story is a stark lesson in the dangers of getting drawn into the mob underworld. Robert Kepper, who plays Turk, is familiar to fans of the Prison Break TV show, in which he played T-Bag. He and Sorvino are the acting heavyweights in Cold Deck, and they lend some gravitas to an otherwise lightweight film.