A little drunk on its own arcane exotica as a gambling movie, Rounders
is a film that takes us inside a world of high-stakes card players but falls short on such essentials as character development and relationships. Still, it is a real curiosity, written by a couple of guys (David Levien and Brian Koppelman) who appear to know something about the dark underbelly of card hustling for fun and profit. Matt Damon stars as a reluctant law student who can't put aside his subterranean career of playing poker and blackjack for big money. After he loses his post-grad nest egg to a weird Russian kingpin (John Malkovich)--and also loses his disgusted girlfriend (Gretchen Mol) in the process--Damon's character turns to an unreliable old buddy (Edward Norton) for a dangerous game of sharking wherever there happens to be a game underway: frat boys, cops, bad dudes, you name it. Norton appears to be living out every young actor's fantasy of re-creating Robert De Niro's prot! otypical head case in Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets
, and while his performance is burdened by obvious quotation marks, his estimable talent still shines through. Damon's charm and intelligence bring some oomph to the curiously flat proceedings, and while his hushed, soul-bearing scenes with Martin Landau (as a law professor who takes a shine to the kid) seem gratuitous, they're still nice to watch. Behind all this is director John Dahl (Red Rock West
), who is not exactly at the top of his game here but who brings his distinctive toughness to the crime-noir tone.--Tom Keogh, Amazon.com
For the first time on Blu-ray. Dealt a painful lesson when he blows his hard-earned savings in a high-stakes, underground card club, master poker player Mike (Damon) thinks he's played his final hand when he gives up gambling for law school and a fresh start with his beautiful girlfriend (Gretchen Mol). But then, his best buddy (Norton) gets out of prison and in over his head with a ruthless Russian card shark (John Malkovich). From there, Mike's strong sense of loyalty and the irresistible lure of the game draw him back to the tables in a do-or-die bid to rescue his friend! In this riveting motion picture also featuring John Turturro and Martin Landau, Mike ultimately finds himself forced to wager his very future in a game he cannot afford to lose!