Rounders (1998)

No big deal.  Matt Damon plays a promising young law student and 
ace poker player, sucked back into the game after the parole of an 
old friend and former fellow card shark (Edward Norton).  Will the 
lad lie to his girlfriend, risk endangering his education, and 
probably even get beat-up before it's all over?  Can you say "duh?"
Maybe with a livelier cast, this shop-worn formula would've worked 
better.  Despite quite competent turns by Damon and his supporting 
staff (Martin Landau, John Tuturro, Famke Janseen, etc.), only our 
pal Ed Norton adds any real zest.  (And even he isn't around for 
the entire movie!)  Truth be told, I was ready to fold at the hour 
mark, but I guess I'm glad that I didn't, as I would've missed the 
high-stakes finale, featuring an amusing extended appearance by 
John Malkovich as a wacky-accented, Oreo-obsessed Russian mobster.  
Written by David Levien and Brian Koppelman, whose hard-boiled 
poker lingo ("grinder," "hanger," "mitt joint," "nut straight," 
"splash the pot," "give the office," etc.) is itself almost worth 
the price of admission.  Directed by John Dahl (RED ROCK WEST, THE
LAST SEDUCTION).  Nice photography, too, by Jean Yves Escoffier 
(GOOD WILL HUNTING).  (Rated "R"/120 min.)

Grade: C+

Copyright 1998 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as MOVIE HELL: September 14, 1998

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