ROUNDERS (1998)

Directed By: John Dahl 
Written By: Brian Koppelman & David Levien 
Cinematography By: Jean-Yves Escoffier 
Editor: Scott Chesnut 

Cast: Matt Damon, Edward Norton, Martin Landau, Gretchen Mol, John Malkovich, John Turturro, Michael Rispoli, Famke Janssen, Josh Mostel, Melina Kanakaredes, Lenny Clarke 

A young man is a reformed gambler who must return to playing big stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks


The Film takes you into the backroom parlors and other places around the city where gambling and illegal gaming is going on.

The film puts you in the right atmosphere of a certain kind of elegance and well as an underground network of con men and illegal activities. Which the film tries to come off as cool and slick, but comes off as stiff. The confines though feel illustrious and classic. Like age-old traditions which help give the film a richness. All the scenes seem to filtered with deep dark reds.

By all means, considering the talent involved in the film, this should be a better film. The way the film plays, it acts like it’s a better film then what it is. While it has a pedigree, the film hasn’t earned that right yet.

While it has it’s share of surprises the story feels fairly predictable. The thing that keeps you watching is wondering when and how what you know is going to happen.

Though he is good Edward Norton seems to be coasting through this film. While Matt Damon seems to be taking it seriously while that works for him. It’s not too much of a stretch. While Norton seems to be trying to create a character with very few details. But seems to be going for classic gritty scumbag.
The film at least gives him an important decision to make but either way it is looking up for him whichever decision he makes. only one is more dangerous and uncertain. While the other he is good at but has no passion for.

At the time Hollywood’s it girl Gretchen Mol has what passes for a female leading role, though in the end, it comes off as a typical girlfriend role. There isn’t a real character there just a point in the script to give the lead something to be working toward and pulling him in one direction while the other direction entices him.

It’s fun to see John Malkovich hamming it up in his role. Where he gets to be a character and a heavy. While also getting to be funny

The film seems to have an attitude like it’s supposed to be or going to be a classic New York tale, yet comes off as mediocre and a story that feels familiar that is not necessarily better but isn’t worse than how we have seen it before.

It’s entertaining and a disappointment only because you go in thinking about the possibilities that it never achieves. One of the problems in this film is that we understand the bonds of friendship, but these guys are hustlers and poker players a game of not only skill but smarts. Now he realizes his friend is a screw-up which almost anyone except for him can see. So that when a betrayal does eventually happen He is so shocked. Yet expects loyalty even though they are not family.

I know I am hard on this film, it’s not a bad film. Maybe it’s just the fact I have seen so many films this one does little to distinguish itself. It’s a good film that is enjoyable yet there is nothing too special about it. I remember seeing this in theaters on opening night with a small audience. I expected a bigger more appreciative crowd. Yet the theater was nearly empty. The film is entertaining and as long as you don’t expect much it’s good. It’s just watching it and thinking of how much better it could hurt a little. It does set an intoxicating mood with it’s elements. Giving it a feeling of warmness in treacherous times.

GRADE: B

WALKING TALL (2004)

walkingtall

Directed By: Kevin Bray
Written By: David Klass, Channing Gibson, David Levien & Brian Koppelman
Based on An Earlier Screenplay By: Mort Briskin
Cinematography By: Glen MacPherson
Editor: George Bowers & Robert Ivison 


Cast: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Johnny Knoxville, Neal McDonough, Ashley Scott, Kevin Durand, Michael Bowen, John Beasely, Kristen Wilson, Khleo Thomas, Cobie Smulders

After eight years serving the U.S. Army Special Forces, Sergeant Chris Vaughn returns to his hometown seeking for a job in the local mill. He is informed by Sheriff Stan Watkins that the mill was closed three years ago and now the Wild Cherry Casino, owned by his former high school friend Jay Hamilton, is the major source of jobs and income to the town. Chris goes home, and meets his best-friend Ray Templeton, who organized a football game with their friends. After the game, Jay invites Chris and his friends to spend the night in his casino on him, but when Chris finds that the casino crabs dealer is cheating with loaded dice, he fights against the security men and is almost killed by them. When his nephew Pete overdosed on crystal meth sold by the security men at the casino, Chris realizes that the town is dominated by the mobsters and the corrupt sheriff and with a huge piece of wood, he breaks the casino and the criminals. He is prosecuted and in the trial, he promises to the jury and to the population that if he is acquitted, he would be a candidate for sheriff and clean up the town. Later, Sheriff Chris Vaughn has to fight against the organized crime to keep his promise.

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