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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 4.76%
Pretty Bad: 33.33%
Total Crap61.9%

3 reviews, 3 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"Worst Poker Movie Ever?"
1 stars

At the time of its release, Rounders was hardly a box-office sensation. Ten years later with the poker sensation probably still searching for its peak, the film is considered one of those ahead of its time. Before it, the poker game of choice in films like The Cincinnati Kid, Maverick and The Sting was either 5-card draw or 7-card stud. Rounders brought the infamous Texas Hold ‘Em to the mainstream and now its inescapable. Poker tournaments with celebrities, players who have become celebrities, Vegas expanding its poker rooms to accommodate every Jack, Bret and Huck Cheever believing they can take a pot from the local regulars. Naturally, the movies have tried to get a piece of the action it helped start but each attempt has made Rounders’ pot look positively World Series like. The new film, Deal, is unlikely to challenge that $23 million. In fact, it’s unlikely to challenge anything let alone steal the blinds on a bluff. Deal is more like the rake. Get it off the table as quickly as possible before the true players realize it ever existed.

Here’s a new take for you. Alex (Reaper’s Bret Harrison), a young, cocky collegiate mops up the tables online. He’d rather play poker than take a phone call from the girl of his dreams or, especially, work as a clerk in his father’s law office. Tommy (Burt Reynolds) is the aging poker pro who has sworn off the game for two decades after a bad beat and now just holds onto his beloved marriage while glancing at the occasional game on TV. That’s where he first sees Alex get played badly by poker queen Jennifer Tilly (playing not herself.) The second time is at a local casino where he offers his mentoring services and such unheard of Hold ‘Em advice like “don’t play the cards, play the player.”

It takes Alex some time to adjust, frequently using the excuse of “bad cards” despite playing them to a natural bust-out, but he comes around as does a concerned mom when he dumps his tuition in cash on their living room table. Tommy even coaxes the lad into feminine confidence when he hooks up with a hottie (Shannon Elizabeth) at a Vegas bar. Tommy’s wife doesn’t like that he’s back on the game. Him and the kid have a falling out over a Cable Guy-like twist. Tommy comes completely out of retirement and finds himself in the very same nine-ball tournament with his protégé. OK, it’s still poker, but you catch my drift.

There is not a single scene in all of the 80-some minutes of Deal that hasn’t been done before and with a lot more wit. Lucky You may have faltered in its Drew Barrymore romance, but every discussion and every game (especially with Robert Duvall) gave you the impression that the writers knew a little something about the details and even the lifestyle. Deal takes the bold, fresh approach of not including the audience into the game itself. For the first hour, in particular, we see chips bet and exchanged, players’ two cards dropped for a result but absolutely zero drama into strategy or the build-up to rooting (if you can) for a character while the out-of-focus cards fall into place. And, while we’re at it, a word of advice to all you poker scripters out there. We know how the game works by now. If I’m going to see a Texas Hold ‘Em movie, I get it. Mahjong, not so much. But I know the flop, the turn and the river. Don’t waste time explaining it like Giancarlo Giannini in Casino Royale. It’s almost as embarrassing as watching real-life commentators like Vince Van Patten somehow come off as more ridiculous than the parodied versions in Best In Show, Dodgeball or Zak Penn’s recent overlooked poker comedy, The Grand.

Deal may not be the worst film to ever associate itself with the world of gambling. Although 21 comes close, it’s actually 1985’s bad movie classic, Fever Pitch, with Ryan O’Neal. But O’Neal’s film was so patently ridiculous that it’s instantly more watchable than slugging through the cliches of Mark Weinstock’s dead-on-arrival screenplay which are more prevalent than a film critic working in poker terms into a review. Alex is a whiny, unrootable chump. Reynolds tries to prove he’s not sleepwalking through another role, but is unsuccessful. Gil Cates Jr.’s amateurish direction makes one long for the tight pacing of his father’s Oscar telecasts. Poker face aside, Deal has to take the title of the worst film ever about the game and that includes the how-to videos with Joan Rivers impersonators you see in your Vegas hotel room.

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originally posted: 04/25/08 14:00:00
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User Comments

1/15/10 mr.mike It wasn't great but I can't diss Burt. 3 stars
4/26/08 Teresa Goodwin Very Boring 2 stars
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  25-Apr-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 19-Aug-2008



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