Netflix Film of the Week: Rounders

The FILM IN WORDS Netflix Film of the Week: helping you navigate the filmic minefield of the nation’s favourite video streaming service.

Rounders Norton

Words: Emmett Barlow
Twitter: @EmmettBarlow


Before he covertly kicked arse as Jason Bourne and duplicitously stole Jude Law’s Identity in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Matt Damon hustled and gambled in dingy basements, over kitchens tops, and in sleazy bars. Carrying much of the intellectual prowess but less of the melodrama from Good Will Hunting, Damon was Mike McDermott in John Dahl’s 1998 Poker drama Rounders.

A self-financed law student with the beautiful girlfriend, Jo (Gretchen Mol), the admiration of his peers and the tenuously balanced thirst for green and flare with a deck of cards. With the release of his childhood friend, Worm (Edward Norton) from jail, Mike is drawn deeper into a world of debt and desperation, where he inadvertently becomes indebted to the ‘wrong type’ of Russian’s and must play his way out of the red.

Rounders was shadowed in the oscillating success and failure of Miramax titles in the late nineties, despite seeing nearly double a return on its $12 million budget, this ace was lost in the deck of not only Weinstein’s back-catalogue, but an array of sexy new sci-fi features and a boring bunch of pre-millennium anxiety flicks.

Essentially a sports film, Rounders competently carries enough jargon, wit and stability to distract from its predictable narrative. Utilising a reassuring lack of glamour, flash and sparkle, and not resorting to condescension with sensationalism – much like the now caricaturist The Cincinnati Kid, glam-fest Maverick or the more recent flashness of 21. All those pictures reinforce notions of ‘skill over luck’, but none really capture the grim, tangled, desperation of high stakes gambling like Rounders. A mischievously entertaining, shamefully forgotten, film that boasts young stellar cast, pull up a chair and deal yourself in on this Netflix film of the Week.

Rounders is available on Netflix UK now.

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