Gambling movies can often seem a little bit dry. To some extent they’re all the same: a down and out protagonist, the highs and lows of a betting lifestyle, consequence and reward, etc. We all know the drill by now. But this December will bring us a new release in this genre that looks like it’ll be different – and probably better than most of its counterparts.
Molly’s Game is slated for a Christmas Day release. Starring Jessica Chastain, Kevin Costner, and Idris Elba, it will tell the true story of a fascinating figure in poker history. Molly Bloom (Chastain) ran a high stake, exclusive, celebrity-packed poker game for years before ultimately becoming an FBI agent.
Not only does that sound like a fresh angle on a poker movie, but the project also appears to be in incomparable hands. Aaron Sorkin has adapted the screenplay from Bloom’s own book, and will also be making his directorial debut.
All in all it just sounds like a more serious and unique project than your average gambling flick. But while this can be a somewhat tired genre, Molly’s Game won’t be alone if it’s a success. There are some good gambling movies that have come out over the years, and we’ve put together a list of five that might serve as nice appetizers for this promising December release.
Probably the grittiest and most honest poker film ever made, Rounders has moved from “cult classic” to just a classic over the years. It’s hard not to enjoy Matt Damon, Ed Norton and John Malkovich no matter what they’re doing, and high stakes poker in dusty back rooms is pretty exciting in their hands.
The movie has also become somewhat legendary for its role in launching the “poker boom” of the early-2000s. While it may well have increased public interest in the game in general, Chris
Moneymaker – one of the first amateurs to win a true fortune in the World Series of Poker – credits the film as his introduction to the game.
2. The Color Of Money
Some would opt for The Hustler over this movie. The Hustler is a 1961 film in which Paul Newman plays an up-and-coming pool player who takes on an established champion played by Jackie Gleason. It’s got a good reputation, but 1986’s The Color Of Money is just more fun.
It’s a sequel in which Tom Cruise jumps into the fray as a sort of protégé for the Newman character. Even now it’s fun to look back at Cruise in his young prime, and to see a gambling movie that doesn’t revolve around a card table.
3. Casino Royale
Sure, it’s a James Bond film first and a gambling flick second. But this movie really dives into the poker, presenting in a sense the ultimate high stakes game.
Another post on great films in this genre called the Monte Carlo poker tournament one of the most unforgettable scenes in recent film history, and while that sort of phrase will always sound dramatic it’s sort of hard to argue.
If watching Daniel Craig’s tuxedo-clad Bond flipping chips, glancing at cards, and discussing strategy with the beautiful Vesper (Eva Green) doesn’t give you the itch to play poker, nothing will.
There seems to be a misconception out there that Casino is just another mob movie. It’s not hard to see why. When Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci team up, it’s usually for something mob-related.
While Casino absolutely involves the mob (it’s basically about how the mob controlled Vegas casinos), however, it also deals more intimately with casino activity than most films in the genre. Both actors are terrific, as always, and Sharon Stone is at her best. It’s an intense movie, but a good watch.
5. Mississippi Grind
Mississippi Grind is the newest movie on this least, and probably the least well known. It stars Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn in what essentially amounts to a road trip/gambling movie about two guys who get deeper and deeper into a sort of gaming spree.
For whatever reason it didn’t generate very much attention, though it got better reviews than most of its genre counterparts tend to. As Peter Travers, one of the better critics working today noted, gambling tales are hard to sell, but this one is on a lucky streak.
It’s a blast to watch, and manages to deal with fairly traditional gambling film themes in a way that feels fresh.
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