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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 31.11%
Average: 31.11%
Pretty Bad: 2.22%
Total Crap: 2.22%

2 reviews, 33 user ratings

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by Jack Sommersby

"Can't Anyone Ever Play Poker For Fun?"
3 stars

It's not a model of its subgenre like James Foley's brilliant "Confidence" (see review), but for undemanding entertainment it'll do.

The sparsely-released independent picture Shade, which isn't exactly the best-written cinematic endeavor ever committed to celluloid, relies a bit too much on its far-from-enthralling words and happenstances, and not enough on style and narrative drive to glide over them. Consequently, practically every viewer will be privy to the first grift that's introduced at the beginning of the story before it the gist behind it is revealed (something to do with a lost ring supposedly worth one-thousand dollars), so one's confidence isn't at a high point on the side of debuting writer/director Damian Nieman practically from the get-go. But gradually the proceedings start to pick up and improve, and the movie ends up being recommendable as an agreeable-enough time killer that largely benefits from its inventive, dead-on casting. Gabriel Byrne is understatedly appealing as the ringleader of a trio of grifters, which also includes the beautiful, delectable Thandie Newton and a quietly magnetic Stuart Townsend; and their mark, a legendary "mechanic" (one who can cheat like no tomorrow in manipulating a deck of cards), is played by none other than Sylvester Stallone, with gray in the temples and slyness in his voice as if he were amused at playing such a character feared because of his high-acumen mind rather than his imposing physical might. And surrounding them is a fine supporting cast consisting of a sensual Melanie Griffith, a focused Jamie Foxx, and, in the standout performance, a vivid Bo Hopkins (he was the most manic member of Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch who got knocked off in the first action sequence) as an overweight, on-the-take vice cop with a bum leg. Refreshingly, this high-stakes-poker tale doesn't take place in Las Vegas, but Los Angeles; and Nieman doesn't visually overdo the gambling-scene mileu (there are no been-there/seen-that montages of colorful casino signs and the like); instead, he shoots compact sequences in finely composed 2.35:1 widescreen and allows enough space for the actors to breathe and inject some freshness into their pretty bum dialogue ("I only had four girlfriends in my entire life, and they were all tens." "Well, it looks like your girlfriends were all fucking guys named Jack."). Oh, the pacing could have been enlivened some so we didn't have so much time to get a drop on the angles the characters are working (a similar flaw that hampered playwright David Mamet's overpraised directorial debut House of Games), and there's a pretty dreadful subplot involving Hal Holbrook as a magician and fatherly figure to Townsend who encourages his protegee to resist easy big money -- it's more or less the same speech Holbrook gave to corrupted-stockbroker Charlie Sheen in Wall Street. However, for a movie that's far from original and treads a storyline far too reminiscent of Recent Movies Past, Nieman's hands are, for the most part and unlike his characters', clean.

The film didn't fool me, but if you're drunk or high enough, hey...

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originally posted: 06/03/06 04:02:04
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 CineVegas Film Festival. For more in the 2003 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/13/17 danR 2-timing 4-flushing double-crossing movie deals you jokersfromthe bottom of the deck. 4 stars
6/03/06 San Lamar pretty dang good 4 stars
6/03/06 Jack Sommersby Entertaining and very well-cast. 4 stars
1/12/06 R.W.Welch Stings galore. Has a certain aura about it and the acting is a plus. 4 stars
12/08/05 alexander nillson great card movs in film histori 5 stars
12/08/05 alexander larsson this film made me start card hustling = made me a lot of mony 5 stars
9/05/04 Cardman Fair movie. Great if you like good card work 4 stars
8/09/04 norma Loved the movie, love stallone 5 stars
7/31/04 malcolm steals a lot from other films, maybe stallone's best work 4 stars
7/28/04 Elizabeth Fun, but not quite as clever as it thinks. 3 stars
7/27/04 Brad A little predictable but who cares? It was fun. 4 stars
7/16/04 Ira Fogel They should have given this good fiulm a little more promotion and not written it off so qu 5 stars
6/29/04 Robert Hinojosa Very good movie. 5 stars
6/18/04 Ryan i really thought it was bad 1 stars
6/18/04 paul good film 4 stars
6/14/04 Don A true standout amongst vid store snoozer pap 4 stars
6/01/04 Corky Uneven acting, but Stallone is good and it kept me watching. 3 stars
5/28/04 Ry Director has a total lack of basic movie making skills 2 stars
5/28/04 DEBBIE GEFRE LOVED IT 4 stars
5/09/04 Edward fantastic film stallone and townsend were great 5 stars
4/11/04 Jennifer Waters Entertaining,fun,and great for poker fans. I enjoyed it! 5 stars
4/11/04 Joe Fun movie..very enjoyable..Stallone was great. 5 stars
3/26/04 Joseph Milwood Best Stallone in years!! 5 stars
3/24/04 theresa great movie 5 stars
3/16/04 Matt Byrne was straight up gangster no doubt in my mind and Foxx as well as Stallone did great. 5 stars
3/09/04 Blaine Holloway Stallone 10/10!!!!!!! Movie did it all for me! 5 stars
1/21/04 Betty White Slick, satisfying Vegas drama; Stallone is surprisingly good. 5 stars
11/20/03 Shaun Jones Well put together. Great storyline. Grabs your attention. 5 stars
8/14/03 Marianne A lot to keep you interested.... 4 stars
7/02/03 Phillip L. Scheldt Totally Entertaining with a great twist 4 stars
7/02/03 javan butler good but you new what was coming. 4 stars
7/01/03 Adrian Brody Spine- tingling 5 stars
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  09-Apr-2004 (R)
  DVD: 25-May-2004



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