Director: John Dahl
Year Released: 1998
Now here's the case of a screenplay that thinks it's a lot craftier than it is. Borrowing a page from Mr. Burgess, the dialogue of this movie is packed chock-full of gambling slang that the film rarely takes time to explain to the audience (which is good - it adds to the film's 'authenticity'). The story revolves around two 'rounders' (round-the-clock gambling/poker addicts), played by Matt Damon (who is very effective here) and Edward Norton (who is less so), and the trouble they get into - debt wise - due to Norton's sleazy gambling tactics and all-around greasy behavior. Damon (of course) comes to the rescue, forgoing a promising law career to help Norton get out of the red. Here's the deal: the film is so professionally done, and stylized (by director John Dahl and crafty cinematographer Jean Yves Escoffier, who I think very highly of), that you tend to overlook the glaring flaws - the lack of dramatic tension, the obviousness of the plot line, everything Gretchen Mol says or does, the dialogue (outside of the gambling halls and the voiceover narration) which is sophomoric and not funny (when it tries to be). Surprisingly, though, it never gets boring, and you keep watching because it looks so damn good. John Malkovich, who plays Teddy KGB, a cookiephile with a flare for ugly attire, really, really, really, chews on the scenery (which, like all Malkovichian roles, is more creepy than humorous).