Throughout the summer, we're featuring a movie that someone on our staff has picked as one of their favorite Miramax films. While the summer blockbusters invade the theaters, consider watching one of the staff picks instead. Today's pick Rounders, is from our Acquisitions intern, Rebecca Kuntz. Over the years since its release, Rounders has become a cult classic thanks to the popularity of poker around the world. Watch the trailer for this ultimate gambling movie that captured the true scene and essence of underground and high-stakes poker.
John Dahl's finely crafted neo-noir crime thriller Rounders provides the audience with an insider view of the New York world of "Rounders", those who travel from city to city earning their living at high-stakes poker games. From a slick and fast-paced screenplay, written by David Levien and Brian Koppelman, Rounders is chock full of blink-and-miss New York references and gambling jargon, clever insights into the seamy world of grifters on the make; it also provides an unsentimental look into the lives of recent immigrants looking for an advantage in a harsh society.
Matt Damon and Edward Norton, at the time shy of thirty and at the beginning of successful careers, bring a particular brand of infectious and mischievous youthful energy to their characters; their sardonic banter plays like a lively tennis match, and it's a delight to watch the two hone their craft as sly and slippery card sharks who know how to read a room and win.
The story follows two young hustlers who navigate the underground world of poker parlors, trying to escape their impoverished upbringing and paying off their accumulated debt to a terrifying Russian mobster, Teddy KGB (John Malkovich). Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) is a reformed gambler and current law student who is determined to walk a straight line after a previous poker match left him penniless. After the arrival of his best friend, Lester "Worm" Murphy (Edward Norton), a fast-talking reckless ex-con, Mike slips back into old habits to help support his indebted friend. As the two slide easily into their rounding ways, their ensuing games wittily illustrate their risky gambling tricks. A colorful cast of supporting characters embellishes the story, from the staunch support of a Jewish law professor (Martin Landau), to the savvy former-Rounder Joey Knish (John Turturro) determined to help the younger generation, adding flavor to the already rich narrative.
Rounders thrives in its nocturnal settings captured by cinematographer Jean-Yves Escoffier; its alluring cinematic quality is reflective of this decision: filmed with high contrast and draped in lush shadows, the film palpitates in the deep hues of its nocturnal secrecy. When not immersed in the seedier New York exteriors, the claustrophobic interiors where the passage of time is erased create a sense of nervous anticipation to the central focus of the poker games. The editing of these poker table scenes is as thrilling as any action sequence, as they are filmed in inventive and dynamic ways. Relying on facial close ups, extreme shots of eyes, hands and cards, and wider angles that feature the motley players at card tables, Rounders creates engrossing sequences, hooking the audience in the finer details of high-stakes poker playing.
Despite not having initial critical success, this film has since become a cult favorite.
Watch Rounders on Netflix today!