Rounders is a film that was based on an original screenplay and directed by John Dahl. The film popularized the game of poker, particularly the Texas Hold 'Em variety. However, the film is about more than poker. Its also about friendship, love, and ambition.
At the beginning of the movie, the main character, Mike McDermott, goes to Teddy KGB's gambling den and bets all of his savings: $30,000. After an unfortunate loss, he gives up gambling and starts driving truck to pay for his law school classes. However, he is unable to stay away from the game and is pulled back into it when his friend, Worm, is released from prison.
Worm is a poker hustler, well learned in the art of cheating with cards. He also has a huge debt from before he went to prison and suddenly gets Mike roped into it after insulting the loan shark that he owes the money too. Soon enough, they find themselves gambling in order to win $15,000 to pay off Worm's debt and save themselves from certain death.
Mike McDermott is played by Matt Damon in one of his most memorable roles. His sleazy friend Worm is played by Edward Norton and his girlfriend, Jo, is played by Gretchen Mol. Other important characters include rounder Joey Knish, who is played by John Turturro, and Russian mafioso Teddy KGB, played by John Malkovich.
The film is set in New York City, although mainly in the lesser known areas. Most of the scenes take place in the city, although there are parts where McDermott ventures out of the city and into parts of New Jersey. He also visits Donald Trump's Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City for a night of gambling.
The acting in the film is mainly good, but I was not impressed by Gretchen Mol's performance at all. She seemed annoying and a little too unforgiving for me to feel sympathy for her. I thought Ed Norton played his role as the bad friend very well and resembled Robert De Niro in "Mean Streets" in terms of character. John Malkovich also shines in a somewhat amusing portrayal of a bizarre Russian outfit guy, with a certain obsession with Oreo cookies.
The soundtrack is nothing terribly special and only one song was written specifically for the movie. Most of the songs are jazz and rock, featuring music by Duke Ellington and Nat King Cole. The songs fit the movie well, since classical music just doesn't seem to fit poker playing very well.
Overall, I thought the movie was very enjoyable and certainly suspenseful. I think it is pretty impressive that so-called "rounders" can make a living by playing poker. This movie is not the best that I have seen, but it is worth watching nonetheless.