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, relationships, that sor... more »t of thing. 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 prototypical 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« less
Holly T. from SOMERSET, MA Reviewed on 2/2/2010...
One of my favorites!
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
John C. (bookwheelboy) Reviewed on 12/6/2007...
Very clever movie.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Do you play poker?
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 06/18/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There are two types of people watching Rounders: those who play poker and those who don't. If you can identify in any way with Matt Damon in this movie, it's going to captivate you. If you're not a card player... you can probably forget it. Mike McDermott (Damon) is a professional poker player and a law school student, in that order. One night, in an attempt to raise the capital for a trip to Las vegas to play in the World Series of Poker, McDermott loses his whole bankroll, $30K, to the owner of his favorite underground card club, Teddy KGB (John Malkovich). The next day, he swears off cards, but we get the feeling he does so in order to keep his relationship with Jo (Gretchen Mol) alive. His resolve is shaken, and quickly detroyed, when his best friend growing up, Worm (Edward Norton), is released from prison, and McDermott soon finds himself back at the table. This movie succeeds on a number of levels, and surprisingly so. Of course, many of those levels have to do with cards, and if (as I said) you're not enchanted, or at least obsessed, with the non-luck aspects of any game of chance, it'll probably bore you stiff. But even if you're only a weekend (or rarer) player at the card table, the horse track, or the stock market, you'd do well to listen to Damon's voiceovers throughout the movie, which have loads of excellent information (and mirror things I've been telling novice horseplayers for years). Other than that, the insights into relationships, and the ways obsession can destroy them, are profound. Well, okay, maybe not profound, but handled with gobs more subtlety and wit than I've seen in just about forever. Mol isn't really onstage long enough to give her any real chemistry with Damon, but take it from me, the ways they react to one another throughout the film are dead on. More importantly, both to the plot and to the success of the movie, is the relationship between McDermott and Worm. Edward Norton proves once again he's one of Hollywood's true rising talents, and the deeper motivations that drive his character are exposed just well enough that we can see them. Not an easy task, and one sure to be uncovered if the actor doesn't understand those motivatins and the viewer does. The other main aspect of the film is the suspense during the actual card games. Another thing that's not easy to pull off, and often (most recently in the Gibson/Foster remake of Maverick) the director resorts to insane, next-to-impossible combinations of cards to make it work. (Remember the final game in Maverick?) In the first scene, when Teddy KGB nails McDermott, the winning hand is a full house. Welcome to the real world of poker, where oftentimes it's the guy holding the two pair that ends up forty grand richer at the end of the night. Dahl realizes, repeatedly, that it's not the cards in the hand that provide the action, it's the way the characters react to one another. One almost thinks that Dahl could have pulled this movie off by putting Damon, Norton, Malkovich (without the cheesy accent), John Turturro, and two or three of the other cardplayers around a table and shot two hours of one game."
Extra features justify a new edition
H. Asari | Madison, WI USA | 12/25/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I own the original DVD of this film. Certainly I hesitated to buy a second copy of the essentially same movie, but(...) I thought I'd take a chance. The main feature remains the same, so if you are in the same situation as I was, you'll be paying for the extra features. In short, the extras certainly make it worthwhile to own this edition, whether or not you own the original.
1. If you play poker already, "Heads Up Texas Hold 'Em" won't help you. (I bet you suspected that already.) 2. The two bonus features, "Behind-The-Scenes Special" and "Inside Professional Poker", are short at 5'20" and 5'40" respectively. The former is a little disappointing; it appears that the cast and the staff simply talk about the movie retrospectively after the production. In other words, it looks and feels like an afterthought. The latter is a little more satisfying; it gives some well-known (to regular poker players) principles of poker. The soundtracks are very annoying. 3. Champion Poker Tips gives a few sound-bite tips from Johnny Chan, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Phil Hellmuth, and Chris Moneymaker. Again, if you play poker already, there is nothing new here. 4. Now, these professional players are featured in the extra commentary. Mr. Whear characterized this commentary as "odd," but I thought this was the best part of this Collector's Edition. The comments they make are sometimes off the wall, but it just adds to the charm (to me, anyway). They analyze the hand Mike McD loses to Teddy KGB at the beginning of the movie, and also the showdown at the end; their analysis is good, and they explain how (and why) things will be quite different in the real life. Also, the commentary shows the characters of these pros. Hellmuth is usually the motor mouth; Chan is the happy guy, but complains about how fat he appears in the film; Moneymaker seems a little reserved around the others; Ferguson is pretty quiet, but when he speaks he is brilliant (he even cracks a joke). 5. Staff's commentary gives some insight into the production of the film, including the real-world model of Teddy KGB (it turns out he is Eddie KGB in real life). This commentary is also good.
What was on the original DVD edition that is missing on this edition is the theatrical trailer. You might wonder why I bring this up. Well, the trailer contains a couple of scenes that didn't make the cut. I'm sure these could have been added as deleted scenes, too. For that, I subtract 1 star."
The Poker Revolution
Rick Van Hazel | Phoenix, AZ | 02/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw Rounders when I had been playing Hold'Em for about 2 years and noticed a big change in the "drop ins" at the tables. (Drop In - A new player that isnt one of the regulars that usually play in a reoccuring game or location) People were throwing out quotes from Teddy KGB, the Russian character played by John Malkovich. I could tell the movie was creating an insurgance of new players to the game. Years later you can play Hold'Em at nearly any table in any casino and say something like 'weaddy ageasieev' and get at least a couple chuckles.Matt Damon plays the main character, Mikey McDermott and Edward Norton his best friend Lester "Worm" Murphy who's freshly released from a prison term that Mikey might have also had to serve if Lester would have given him up. Feeling obligated for the sacrifice his friend made, Mikey trys everything he can to keep Worm out of trouble while attempting to hold together a failing relationship with his girlfriend while juggling law school. Mikey cant resist the draw of poker and ends up back in the frey of the Rounders again realizing that life is a grind without his true love of poker.Damon portrays the main character brilliantly and Norton was so convincing that I actually felt angry at him for fouling everything all up. Malkovich invents his own odd version of the Russian accent while pulling off the role of Teddy that is completely unforgettable. There's also a great cameo by the 3 time World Series of Poker champion Jonny Chan.Rounders portrays a professional gambler more realistically than I've ever seen it before. From hiding large amounts of cash all over the house to the dark smokey poker rooms hidden away in a basement to ring games at the casino. Amassing large fortunes and getting broke again then back in the same day. The life of gambling is one of extremes, danger and euphoria. People get drawn into it and like a drug become addicted, a small handful end up conquering it and carving out a life for themselves.This movie can almost be attributed to the start of a new revolution of poker players, TV shows like World Poker Tour sprang up, attendance at the World Series of Poker has increased by bounds every year. Though it was an already growing sport, Rounders has been the catalyst to growth and has pulled people into poker like never before."
Rounders is brilliant..
Can Erzi | Istanbul,Turkey | 04/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Let's put this first:Rounders is a movie about poker..But it doesn't mean that those who are not into this game,won't understand it or like it...Mike (Damon)is a young law student who is also a master poker player..When he loses all of his savings in a game against the poker expert Russian KGB (Malkovich),he thinks he has played his final hand and promises his girlfriend that he will never sit on a game again.Then his long time friend "Worm" (Edward Norton) gets out of prison and Worm is in big trouble with many guys waiting for his release,because he owes a serious amount to them and the creditors' list goes all the way up to KGB..From then on,it's the dilemma of Mike between his promise to his girlfriend,his education as a law student vs. his loyalty to his friend and his great passion for the game of poker.I should begin by saying that all of the actors involved (maybe except Gretchen Mol who plays Mike's girlfriend) did a wonderful job.Matt Damon is great as the young poker whiz,we can really feel the state of mind he is in during the whole movie,and is also the narrator.His narration is the best bit of the movie in my opinion.Although it seems that it is always about poker,from the first moment you sense that poker is chosen as a metaphor to tell us about life and how we approoach it.The script is brilliantly written.Altough I didn't know a thing about poker (and especially about Texas Hold'em),there hasn't been a thing I missed thanks to the narration of Mike and the perfection of the storytelling.Many people have criticized Malkovich's portayal of the Russian card shark but I think that the final re-match between him and Mike was one of the funniest parts among all the movies I have seen.And Edward Norton should also be mentioned because I think he does a great job as the Worm.He made me hate him for all the problems he put Mike in,and that is the sign of an actor doing his job at best.The DVD lacks extras and that is my biggest complaint..The deleted scenes I have seen from the trailer should have been added.This is not a blockbuster and it doesn't have any action scenes.It's all about poker but poker is about life in Rounders.I strongly recommend it even if you don't know anything about this card game who is not about luck.Caveat Emptor..."
Excellent poker movie with great cast
T O'Brien | Chicago, Il United States | 02/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rounders is a very good movie that has a great cast throughout. Mike McDermott is a law student who pays his tuition by his winnings at the poker table. When a Russian kingpin cleans him out during a high stakes game, Mike decides to quit playing cards and focus on his studies to become a lawyer. Problems arise when his old friend, Les "Worm" Murphy, is released from jail and almost instantly gets him into trouble with a gambling debt. Seeing his friend in trouble, Mike comes out of his retirement to try and help him out. This is a very enjoyable movie that benefits from its great cast. What is best about this movie is how it plunges the viewer into the world of high stakes poker. The movie fully immerses you into this world as Mike narrates his story. Matt Damon is excellent as Mike McDermott, the law student who must return to the game to get his friend out of trouble. His performance is very believable as he explains much of the logic behind the game. Edward Norton stars as "Worm" Murphy, Mike's slimy friend who continues to get him into trouble. John Malkovich is also great as Teddy KGB, the Russian kingpin who is also a great card player. The movie also stars Martin Landau in a very good role, John Turturro, Gretchen Mol, Famke Janssen, and Michael Rispoli. The DVD offers theatrical trailers and the widescreen presentation of the movie. At times, Rounders reminded me of The Cincinnati Kid starring Steve McQueen with the young upstart taking on the established veteran. For a great movie that throws you into the world of high stakes poker, check out Rounders!"