Top positive review
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"Always leave yourself outs"
on 2 June 2005
I have watched this movie several times in the last few years, and have been playing Texas Hold'em for a similar amount of time. When this special edition came out, I knew I had to check it out; and I was not disappointed, since besides the great movie, it includes a nice collection of extras.
Mike (Damon) is a grinder that plays poker as if it was a job. He has used his skills to pay his way through law school by gambling day after day without falling outside the boundaries of his method. But now something clicked and he is making a run for it. He goes to the underground club of Teddy KGB (Malkovich), a man highly connected with the Russian mob, carrying along all his savings and trading them for three stacks of high society ($30,000) to try to pave his way to Vegas.
It seems that the advice of a friend will save him from his fate when Joey Knish (Turturro) tries to dissuade him from going for it, but Mike disregards the advice and takes his chances. When Mike doesn't follow his cardinal rule (title of this review), Teddy KGB busts him for all his money. Now he is so disappointed that he decides to quit the game, takes up a job working Joey's truck and promises his girlfriend not to gamble anymore. When Worm (Norton) an old friend from school comes out of jail, Mike is tempted to go for it again. The fact that Worm is a cheat and owes money to influential people just complicates things.
This movie presents an interesting tour of the world of gambling, and if you are interested in poker you will certainly like it. You will also get the chance to see several pros in action, in a few scenes of the movie and in the extras. For those that watch poker on TV and see the glamour surrounding it, you will also get to see a more real depiction of what a professional player that is not on the top goes through.
In terms of the acting, the cast does a great job. Edward Norton is outstanding in the role of Worm, the light-headed trickster who has a history of messing up and who will not stop before getting Mike back into the action. Matt Damon plays his lead role with conviction, and the research he did on poker helps convey his confidence to the viewer. In terms of the supporting cast, Turturro and Malkovich are praiseworthy, so much so that I have always wanted to have the same poise at the poker table that Malkovich, when portraying Teddy KGB, shows in the beginning of the movie.
As I mentioned, the main plus of this new edition is the DVD extras. First, you get an interactive game of Hold'em in which you have to determine whether the correct option is to call, raise or fold, and a tutorial for those who need help learning the game. If you are new to poker this will be interesting, but if you are an average player or above you will probably get bored by it very fast. The behind the scenes feature takes a look at the world of poker, and how the creators decided to go with a movie on this subject. I liked the care they took in researching the topic and showing believable hands in the film, as well as in using specific poker terms. There is also a segment with professional poker players commenting on what the game is, and hammering home the notion that on the long run poker is not a game of luck. The Champion Poker Tips with Johnny Chan, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Phil Hellmuth and Chris Moneymaker are insightful, but do not focus on specific hands, but on overall strategy instead. Finally, you get the chance of watching the movie with two different sets of commentators, either with the four pros just mentioned or with the director and screenwriters.
As you probably figured out by this point, this is a must have DVD. It has everything a good production should have, a great film, interesting extras, and outstanding image and sound quality. Trust me, you cannot go wrong with this one!