All good movies must have certain aspects in place in order to be a success: there must be tension, a compelling predicament for the protagonist to face, an eye-popping setting, and a cast of actors and actresses good enough to carry the script, no matter how poorly it’s written. Casinos certainly have the first three of those four covered, and perhaps that’s why so many directors have had stabs at trying to capture the essence of the high-stakes world.
However, many movies have failed to adequately portray the nuances that exist both in the sphere of online and offline gaming, with many movies flopping as a result. Here are some that managed not to.
Round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows…
Croupiers are the unsung heroes of any casino, be it a land-based casino or on an online live stream, their every move is scrutinized by pit bosses and players alike. Clive Owen was given the role of trying to encapsulate what it means to be one of these workers, surrounded as they are by a whole microcosm of society, each player trying to make their way just like everyone else.
Owen’s performance in this 1998 modern classic is undoubtedly the best of his career and one he never quite managed to recreate the magic of. His character, Jack Manfred, basically does everything that a croupier should never do, befriending clients, having relationships with fellow staff members, and ultimately trying to cheat his own house, all while writing a bestselling book.
Lights, camera, action!
Ocean’s Eleven is more an advert for why casinos are an exciting place to be. Whereas Croupier shows the vagaries of the table games and slots and all that encompasses them, Brad Pitt and George Clooney do away with all that, dressing like the superstars they are, flashing million dollar smiles and making audacious moves on the house, seemingly without a care in the world of the consequences.
Andy Garcia is the casino boss charged with trying to thwart the run on his Las Vegas joint, and his character in many ways is criminally underused. If all life in offline and online casinos worked this way, it would be the house in need of a casino bonus instead of the customer. That said, it’s an entertaining romp as long as you don’t expect anything too taxing on the brain.
Elliott Gould and George Segal are a joy to behold in this chronicle of two friends who just can’t resist the lure of the green felt and smoke gently settling by the overhead lamps.
Both funny and subtle heart-rending, this movie is masterfully directed by Robert Altman, who is purported to have approached Gould with the script because his real-life demeanor so closely matched that of the picture’s protagonist, Charlie. Gould didn’t argue with the comparison, and so the movie was made. There’s no lightning-paced plot or flashy action scenes, just the hard and sometimes comic grind of two casino hustlers.
If California Split is a smoldering slow burner of a movie, then Uncut Gems is its polar opposite, following Jewish action junky Howard, who is played to perfection by surprise turn Adam Sandler. Prior to this movie, it was unclear if Sandler could play any role other than the one seen in his chronically unfunny backlist of dour romcoms.
The beauty of this picture is that despite the viewer knowing full well that Howard’s bets are completely out of control, they are still compelled to believe that he might just find that one huge score that will dig him out of the substantial hole he’s dug for himself. Just as Kevin Garnett (yes, the real Kevin Garnett) appears ready to do just that for Howard, his luck runs out, creating one of the most brutal movie endings you’re likely to witness any time soon.