Written & Directed By: Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden
Cinematography By: Andrij Parekh
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton, Alfre Woodard, James Toback, Robin Weigert, Indigo, Yvonne Landry, Jane McNeill
Down on his luck and facing financial hardship, GERRY teams up with a younger charismatic poker player named CURTIS in an attempt to change his luck. The two set off on a road trip through the South with visions of winning back what has been lost.
This film is not for everyone, it takes It’s time to tell it’s story in all aspects. It’s not going to answer questions for you and isn’t exactly fun, but I believe if given a chance. Most viewers will Either like it or respect it. As it is rare they make films like these anymore. Which seem more life gifts to the actors as a showcase. The film won’t hold your hand, but sticking with the film has it’s own set of payoffs
As for the audience it is a chance to see films that are meant more for grown up’s and take place in a less denationalized world. Where not everything is immediate.
This is a somber 70’s inspired piece of work. That rarely has a sneak of joy. Instead it plays like jazz freestyle. It has it’s up/s and downs, but usually downs with a steady tone that is filled with spontaneity and an unpredictable nature. Though plays to the actors strengths.
This film reminds one of the Robert Altman film CALIFORNIA SPLIT, which the film seems loosely based on as it revolves around hopeless gamblers. New friends who travel and make a bond. Also in common that the films are more of a character study the plot oriented. Though I will say SPLIT, is a more exciting movie as the characters tend to win more and have more success and overall happiness.
This film isn’t necessarily depressing, but a lot of the times it is sad. As we watch the characters gamble at first it seems like a loving and past time, but the. For one character we see how it more becomes an obsession. Especially as he has a lot more to lose. As his problems keep adding up. He still stays taking long shots. It doesn’t even seem like he enjoys it. It is more just a compulsion. As rarely at times does the film show the emotional range that gambling can affect a person with. Like a roller coaster of moods. The excitement of hope and taking a chance and the happiness and fear of the outcome. Then the realization of what you have lost or won.
Jake Gyllenhaal was originally cast in the lead role but he dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Ryan Reynolds replaced him.
Both the lead actors give it their all. Though Ryan Reynolds plays his usual charismatic big mouth smooth talker. Here he is given more depth and a bit more mystery as we slowly see things that have made him the way he is. It comes across as more sad. As much as he doesn’t seem as compulsive to gamble. He does seem addicted to talking long shots and chances. That for him usually pay off in some way. Though, he seems to feel guilty about and most keep playing until he loses and feels that now everything is equilateral. Though the performance allows for depth. As he will gamble on everything but a steady life or being in love.
Ben Mendelsohn here plays against type as more quiet type of character who is self destructive. As his obsession grows. We see the lengths his character will go and though he feels some kind of guilt easily can make an excuse of why he has to keep going. He really hits rock bottom In scenes as we watch how he runs away for stability and responsibility. Then as he actually begins to steal money from friends and family. Cheating his way through to the next bet. His desperation is so great. That we are amazed as he is really our protagonist and who we have liked from the beginning. So it is almost like watching a junkie as his addiction takes effect.
Tony Roundtree, who runs the big poker game, is played by James Toback, who wrote the 1974 film ‘The Gambler.’
The film at times can be random As we see the characters make connections with some strippers. And though it is a transaction seem to actually make a connection that is more than physical.
What weakens the film is that whole to wants to surprise and be random. At turns other then showing us the characters in different situations and how they react. The film comes across as dull a few times and rather pointless as you never see where it is going or when it is going to stop. As the film is more about misadventures, but never comes close to a real plot or scenes where there is anything going on but gambling and conversations. No big heist, no catharsis no intervention. We just continue to watch the characters bond together. Now we usually follow Mendelsohn’s character throughout. So intimately we know him better. During the third act we more follow Reynolds and finally get to know him more the. Through just his bluster and charm.
Which give the film a third act where we are constantly questioning Mendelsohn’s character rather than knowing what he is going to do or say. An air of mystery.
By the end the film has a certain influence as you will find yourself thinking about it and though nothing much happened you will find yourself thinking fondly of the characters and the experience. As the film is subtle in it’s approach and in the end it’s presentation as before you know it. The characters and film have gotten Under your skin and manage to impress you.