Dir: John Dahl
Star: Matt Damon, Edward Norton, Gretchen Mol, John Malkovich

I've never seen the fascination of poker - I believe repressing your emotions like that is innately unhealthy, so prefer my gambling where you can bounce up and down, shriek and hug your other half. This movie does a decent job of capturing the appeal, though seeing law-student Mike McDermott (Damon) read his opponents' cards as easily if they were lying on the table, makes me want to risk any money even less than ever. He loses his wad to KGB (Malkovich), and gets into deeper trouble when "friend" Worm (Norton) comes out of jail and immediately starts making enemies and racking up debt. Things we learn here, include that it is probably a bad idea to deal from the bottom of the deck when playing poker with cops.

For a poker player, Mike is actually a bad judge of people, unable to see that both his girlfriend (Mol) and Worm are totally unsuitable for him - the characters played by Famke Janssen and John Turturro would be better associates, and perhaps more interesting too. However, the performance at the centre is strong enough to hold things together, with Damon's voiceover eloquently assisting us to understand the murky world of high-stakes poker (and more importantly, its players). Might not be somewhere you'd want to live, but Dahl succeeds in making it a fascinating location to visit.


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