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Rounders (SE)
DVD disk
10.17.2004 By: Johnny Moreno
Rounders (SE) order
Director:
John Dahl

Actors:
Matt Damon
Ed Norton
Famke Janssen

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
After losing his tuition money in a poker game with a high ranking Russian mobster (Malkovich) with a penchant for Oreos, Mike McDermott (Damon) decides to go the straight and narrow. Enter his recently released from prison childhood friend, the appropriately named, Worm (Norton). Now that Worm is out, he wants to resume his old habits of “rounding”, tempting his buddy’s new “gone straight” perspective, but with a pain in the ass girlfriend always on his back, it’s easy to do the thing that comes most natural.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
It totally makes sense to release this as a special edition, since poker has become such a chic thing to do nowadays. To give an example on the rise in its popularity, there were five hundred players in last year's World Championship of Poker tournament and over twenty five hundred in this year's. So people are going to eat up whatever's hot right now, from poker chips to cards to flights to Vegas to poker movies. That said, I would've been a lot more pissed if it was a special edition of a movie that really sucked the donkey. See also: GOTHIKA. See also: BAD BOYS. See also: BAD BOYS 2. Fortunately, ROUNDERS isn't lumped into this category. Things start with one of my favorite voice over openings in a movie. In his narration, Damon’s character is so confident of his hand, strategizing, plotting, guessing the Russian’s next move, he can’t see the cobra that lies in wait to attack. It’s this blind confidence of the narration and ultimate let down when Malkovich’s full house trumps Damon’s own full house, that really captures the spirit and somewhat unpredictability of poker. Because as much as you really know, you never really know.

Another thing ROUNDERS has going for it is the relationships of the people Damon’s character surrounds himself with. You have the girlfriend (who just really got on my nerves the whole flick, but maybe that’s the point), his relationship with his law professor (played with ever loving respectability by Martin Landau) who share a few tender “mentor” moments with each other, the “what passes for a friend” relationship with Famke Jansen’s character and John Turturro’s character. And then there’s Worm, which I think the majority of people can relate to. That friend your constantly bailing out of trouble, who’s always looking for trouble. That self-destructive kind of personality friend. Having just seen and reviewed MEAN STREETS, the relationship between Keitel and De Niro’s character in the film is strikingly parallel to the relationship between Damon and Norton. Both De Niro and Norton consistently find themselves getting deeper and deeper into trouble they can’t get out of by themselves. And being childhood friends with someone like that, it's hard to turn your back on them. That is until it comes to head and reaches a violent point. And that’s when you finally realize that what this person is, is not a friend, not a buddy, what they are and what they’ve become is a liability.
THE EXTRAS
Feature Commentary with Director, Screenwriters and Edward Norton: My favorite commentaries are when the cast and crew or whoever are all in the same room recording it. You get the back and forth banter, the shared stories and no dead air. This is one of those commentaries so I was more than happy to sit through this. No dead air and everyone seems pretty pleased with the result. I was surprised that Matt Damon didn’t participate in it, but Edward Norton talks about how he and Damon would recite the entire dialogue from MIDNIGHT RUN, which happens to be one of my favorite movies.

Feature Commentary with Poker Players: Once again, this commentary was recorded with pro players Johnny Chan, Chris Ferguson, Phil Hellmuth, and Chris Moneymaker all in one room and you know what? Poker players are funny ass people, constantly ripping on each other, they could be the guy sitting right next to you. Only their rich and you’re not.

Behind the Scenes: Your standard behind the scenes featurette. The screenwriters talk about how the script started and finally took shape, John Dahl the director speaks about the performances from the cast as well as trying to maintain some authenticity in the look and tone of the film and the terminology and lingo used.

Professional Poker: A featurette on poker, professional players and how to them it isn’t about gambling or luck, it’s a straight business. They work at it. It’s not only their money their playing with...it’s their livelihood. My livelihood is amateur porn, which isn’t much at all.

Tips From Champion Poker Players: Pretty cool feature with the aforementioned pro players. No "play all" feature which really sucked since there are a bunch of tips under each player and you have to go back to choose the next one.

Heads Up Texas Hold 'Em: Interactive feature with a tutorial on how to play and actually lets you play. Fun…for two seconds.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
The Clinic implores you to buy this. If you were merely renting this to watch for the first time, chances are you’re either a poker fan or a Norton, Damon, Malkovich fan, but what you’re getting is so much more to nth degree, you’ll likely go back and buy this for real. There Miramax... I said it, now where’s my check?
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