Rounders (1998)


“[to mike sitting across from him in a bar] The last thing I took away from the Yeshiva was this: we cant run from who we are, our destiny chooses us.” – Professor Petrovsky

Number of Times Seen – Twice (5 Nov 2001 and 23 Jul 2019)

Brief Synopsis – A talented card player returns to the world of gambling in order to help a friend out of debt but it quickly affects his life in ways he never expected.

My Take on it – This is a film that I recalled seeing on video a few years after it came out, yet didn’t recall much about it besides the main cast.

I must start by stating that I am not a card player and this film fails to give us a deep enough understanding of the rules and wold of poker especially needed for those of us without much prior knowledge in the subject and it remains ineffective.

The cast is filled with great actors yet most are not utilized well enough.

Matt Damon does a fine job in the lead and was a rising star when this was made.

Edward Norton was also on his way up at the time, yet feels very miscast in this film because the character doesn’t seen to work with him in the role.

Gretchen Mol’s character isn’t developed well enough and comes across as a stereotypical love interest that feels more like a caricature instead of something much deeper.

The strongest character is Martin Landau as Damon’s mentor.

His character is able to give much insight int the cause and effect of the many choices we all make in life.

The message of this film which is touched upon numerous times about life choices is great yet it isn’t expanded on enough to be effective.

The poker is played quite rapidly and not being a fan of the game, I felt myself getting lost quite often since much is done with little to no explanation.

This is a film with lots more potential than realized and that’s a shame.

Bottom Line – Damon is quite good in the lead, but the film fails to give us a deep enough understanding of the world of gambling to be effective enough. Norton is slightly misused here and plays a character out of type for him which is unfortunate.  Mol is also wasted since her character is quite superficial and feels more like a caricature than a well developed love interest. Landau is the standout here as a mentor who is able to give much insight into choices in life. The film has a great message which is touched upon numerous times but is unfortunately not expanded on enough. For those of us uninitiated in the world of poker, it’s quite easy to get lost quickly because the games move too rapidly with little to no explanation. This film has much more potential than it is able to realize which is a shame.

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – Matt Damon said in a interview that getting John Malkovich was a big deal for the film, so much so that on the first take John Malkovich did a very cartoonish and over the top performance at the end of which the whole crew applauded and praised him for how brilliant it was. At which point Matt Damon looked John Malkovich very confused, John Malkovich seeing him looking confused leaned over and said “I’m a terrible actor.” Matt Damon said John Malkovich was trying to show him that “if you get to that point where no one gives you a straight answer, it’s dangerous” (From IMDB)

Rating – BAFTA Worthy (6/10)

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