Written by David Levien and Brian Koppelman
Directed by John Dahl
Starring Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Turturro, Famke Janssen, John Malkovich and Martin Landau
- Set-top hame: “Heads-Up Texas Hold ‘Em”
- Behind-the-scenes special
- Inside professional poker
- Running audio commentary with professional poker players
- Running audio commentary with director Dahl, scribes Levien and Koppelman, and actor Norton
- Champion poker tips
Released by: Miramax Home Entertainment
My Advice: Rent it.
[ad#longpost]Mike McDermott (Damon) has just lost it all. He bet his entire savings on one hand of Texas Hold ‘Em. So, he decides to quit gambling all together and work his way through law school. Things change when his buddy Worm (Norton) gets out of prison. He immediately goes back into grifting and suckers Mike back into the game. Before he knows what’s going on, Mike finds himself carrying Worm’s continually growing debt and having to stake everything on yet one more hand of Texas Hold ‘Em.
If you can wade through the very thick poker jargon (or if you already know the jargon), this is actually a pretty decent movie. It’s chocked full of some great performances. Hell, even Malkovich is okay in this one. His character is impeded by his less than quality Russian accent, but since he doesn’t have a huge part in the movie, the movie doesn’t suffer. Damon and Norton create a very interesting friendship and their characters benefit greatly from it.
Turturro very nearly steals the movie away from everyone as Joey Knish. He’s Damon’s voice of reason and guru throughout the movie and he’s outstanding. Even the poker scenes are pretty exciting. Thankfully, they chose to put all of the poker jargon around the poker scenes and in Damon’s voice-overs so it doesn’t get it the way of the suspense.
The DVD is pretty good, too. For starters, there are two commentary tracks. Hold on, though: one is good and the other is pretty much worthless. The commentary with the filmmakers is very well done, but the one with the professional poker players is just stupid. This is sad because it could have been rockin’. These are world-class poker players we’re talking about. These are the guys who have won the National Poker Championship not just once but several times over. You’d think that they would be able to provide some insight as to what’s going on with the game of poker. Instead, all they do is sit around and tell you…sort of…what they would have done had they found themselves in the same situations as the characters. This track just feels like each of these poker players is sitting around the microphone the same way they would the poker table; they’re trying to out-cool one another rather than providing us with any “real world” insight into the game of poker.
The rest of the DVD is pretty trite. There is a the behind-the-scenes featurette which feels like it was shot and edited from the same script as all the others on nearly every other DVD. The “Inside Professional Poker” segment is nothing more than a scant look at the world of professional poker players. It ends up with a little bit about Norton and Damon having the opportunity to sit at the table and play (probably with the Weinstein’s money) against the pros. Along this same line there are poker tips from some professionals. These are little bits of the same interviews with the professionals that sound like poker tips, but really aren’t. They are cut and put together via a menu. There are pointers like “Know Your Limit”. You know, don’t bet more money than you can afford to lose. Thanks, Chief. I never would have figured that out by myself. Finally, there is a set-top game on the DVD which will teach you how to play No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em. It’s pretty well done, but as with most of these games, I think it would have been much better as a DVD-ROM feature.
If you’ve never seen the movie, go ahead and add it to your Netflix list. It’s worth spending some time on, but don’t go forming a permanent relationship with it.