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Rounders [DVD] 
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Master gambler Mike (Matt Damon) hangs up his poker visor after losing all his savings in a high-stakes game. Starting a new life at law school, he is dragged back into the gambling underworld by an ex-con friend (Edward Norton), who has gone in too deep with a ruthless Russian cardsharp (John Malkovich). Mike has to ply his old trade once more in an effort to secure a future for himself and his friend.
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
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If you have an interest in the poker, you'll love this film. After watching it, I started to play "Texas Hold'em" and I've never regretted it.
Rounders is one of those films that you can watch over again - I know I have.
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!
Trouble starts when Mike's friend Worm (Edward Norton) gets out of jail and has to find a way of paying off an outstanding debt. To avoid a lot of spoilers, I'll just say that Mike stands surety for Worm, so the debt becomes his -- this is now HIS mess, even though we can see that it was prompted by a sincere desire to help out an old friend. But Worm is neither reliable nor honest, and his impulse control is zero, with the result that the debt that Mike has stood surety for grows larger, and -- as is predictable in this kind of movie -- it's going to take a big win in a climactic game to pay it off. The young Matt Damon -- fresh from "Good Will Hunting" -- is fine as Mike, but the smaller parts taken by Turturro and Malkovich are more vividly played. As Worm, Edward Norton is infuriating -- which is exactly what's required -- and as a law professor sympathetic to Mike, Martin Landau gives him both advice and practical help. Landau tells Damon's character that his parents never forgave him for giving up rabbinical study and becoming a lawyer -- and the fact that he became a respected and successful one cut no ice with them. The question for Mike is clear -- is a lawyer really YOUR calling? And we, the audience, might wonder -- is playing poker really a calling? Well, see the movie and find out -- it's well acted, atmospheric, and entertaining.
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