Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1995)
Often cited as “Goodfellas Go West,” “Casino” has long struggled to get out of the shadow of Scorsese’s other three-hour mob epic starring Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci. However, “Casino” might just be Scorsese at his Scorsesiest. Adapted from the non-fiction book of the same name by “Goodfellas” writer Nicholas Pileggi, “Casino” boasts an abundance of meticulous rhythmic editing, slow-motion sequences, rock and blues jukebox favorites and a pair of dueling voiceovers. DeNiro stars as “Ace” Rothstein, a tough, tortured Jewish bookie summoned by his Chicago mob bosses to run the Tangiers Casino in Vegas.
While Rothstein’s fetishistic attention to detail rivals Scorsese’s own, he is unable to keep the casino’s corruption under wraps as he juggles an ultra-violent mafioso sidekick (Pesci) and a defiant wife (a standout Sharon Stone). The film lurches from one extravagant set-piece to the next, at times feeling like a guided tour through the seven deadly sins. The gambling in “Casino” is on a macro-level; rather than taking place in the casino or on the card table, it happens behind closed doors, where the stakes are sky-high. Source gclub
Based on the true (if embellished by author Ben Mezrich) story of the MIT Blackjack Team that beat the house for nearly a decade, 21 turns interesting math and business story into a sort of dumb heist movie featuring a lot of young, handsome actors (Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Aaron Yoo, Jacob Pitts, and even Josh Gad) trying to pull one over on Kevin Spacey.
Spacey is particularly checked-out here, and the movie was criticized for “whitewashing” in its casting, turning the mostly Asian-American real-life players into generic white people. But for a brief moment, before Spacey is being kidnapped and beaten in a hotel room, it’s an interesting look at the science behind smart gambling. But only for a moment.
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Rounders (John Darl, 1998)
Featuring a youthful Matt Damon, Rounders is the tale of an entrepreneur who pays for his university fees by winning at the poker table. The film is full of famous faces, with John Malkovich and Edward Norton also making appearances.
The movie’s showdown culminates in a dazzling high stakes game, with Malkovich playing the irrepressible poker baron that Damon must try and defeat. The film is carried along by brilliant performances – Norton, in particular, is spectacular – and authentic depictions of poker strategy and table banter that few other gambling movies render so successfully.
It’s a little difficult to find a gambling movie that offers plenty of humor and inspiring drama. Rounders gives you a slice of everything, with a drama-filled script, great rating (7.3 stars), and a star-studded cast (with the ranks of Matt Damon as the main star, as well as Edward Norton and John Malkovich). What more could you ask for?
Rounders follows the story of Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) who must beat Teddy “KGB”, a Russian gambling baron in a high stakes poker. At home, McDermott is being pressured by his girlfriend Jo to call it quits from gambling. However, he must pay his college fees with poker winning.
The push-and-pull between the couple continues until Lester (a friend of McDermott’s) comes out of the slammer and is required to pay off an old debt owed to the KGB. The showdown unfolds right before your eyes, with lots of table banter and poker bluffing strategies.
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The Gambler (1974)
No list about great gambling movies isn’t complete with discussing 1974, The Gambler. James Toback, who wrote the script and based it on his own gambling addictions, has been accused of sexual harassment and assault over a 40-year span by over 350 women. So, you know, it’s a problematic film, but all Toback wrote was the script.
Either way, The Gambler is one of James Caan’s best roles. Period. His Axel just digs himself in deeper and deeper. You never know if he’s going to pull himself out of the hole that he has dug himself in. Caan, however, just utterly sells it as Axel chases for his next rush. You can rent/buy The Gambler online, just make sure it’s not the 2014 movie of the same name starring Mark Wahlberg.
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