Tricheurs (1984)

Written by Steve BaŽs, Pascal Bonitzer & Barbet Schroeder, based on the novel by BaŽs
Directed by Dennie Gordon
Starring Jacques Dutronc, Bulle Ogier, Kurt Raab, Leandro Vale, Steve BaŽs


Released by Home Vision
Rating: NR
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: If you like gambling movies, rent it.

Elric (Dutronc) is a man with a serious gambling problem. When he gets on a tear, he's liable to lose pretty much everything but the shirt off his back--and the only reason he keeps it is because they won't trade it in for chips at the casinos he frequents. When he runs into Suzi (Ogier), he latches onto her as a good luck charm and the two enter a strange relationship. However, things get even stranger when Jorg (Raab) enters the picture, with a sure-fire scheme to cheat at the roulette table and win.

Addiction is a subject that's been tackled by many a film and gambling is always a favorite subject. We're not talking Kenny Rogers TV movies, either. We're talking gotta-have-it down and dirty types of playing with Lady Luck. While this film purports to want to say something about the human condition, and more specifically, the human condition when said human is coked out of his mind on gambling as a drug--it really never goes anywhere. There's got to be something very special in the characters of a story for you to watch them completely screw up their lives and still be sympathetic to them. It's very hard to want to root for either of the leads in this film, since they never know how to quit while they're ahead. Sure, it's not Rounders, but thankfully not much is.

The actors involved all do the best they can with what they're given, but given that, like most addicts, you're talking about abject despair or abject happiness, there's not much in-between. Sadly, even some of the abject despair rings hollow. When Elric gets really messed up and tries to hurt himself, the entire scene plays off as a rather lackluster. I don't know where the blame lies, but as I said, the material doesn't help the actors much. It's basically a slice of life among addicts, but it lacks the visual style and symbolism of something like Requiem For a Dream to carry it the rest of the way.

On the features side, first up is the essay within the booklet, written by author Christopher Pawlicki. It's brief, but it does take you quickly through the history of the roulette game itself and the evolution of cheating at it. The interview included gives some insight into where Schroeder was at the time of the film, but it doesn't go into a great deal of depth. The pratfalls with working with a consultant on the film who's a gambling addict himself--those make for some amusing anecdotes, however.

Bottom line, though, is that if you're into films about gambling and/or addiction, this might be up your alley and worth a rental. I wanted a bit more gravy to go with the grit, but that's just me.

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