Title: Poker Night
Director: Greg Francis
Writer: Greg Francis
Cast: Ron Perlman, Giancarlo Esposito, Beau Mirchoff, Titus Welliver, Michael Eklund, Ron Eldard, Corey Large, Halston Sage
Running time: 1hr 44 min, Unrated (Language, Violence, Rape)
IN THEATERS, VOD AND iTUNES: December 20, 2014
Detective Stan Jeter (Beau Mirchoff) of Warsaw Indiana is welcomed to a poker game by a few of the city’s best detectives – Calabrese (Ron Perlman), Bernard (Giancarlo Esposito), Cunningham (Ron Eldard), and Maxwell (Titus Welliver). The rules of the poker game is that once the rookie wins, he can start asking questions. The guys meanwhile tell him tales of their most memorable cases in such detail, that Jeter imagines himself in their shoes. Once he leaves the game, he is kidnapped by a sadistic masked killer, who locks him in a basement. Using the stories he heard at the poker game, he devises a plan to escape and save the young girl that is trapped in the next room, the girl happens to be Amy (Halston Sage), the daughter of Maxwell. Jeter realizes this whole abduction is personal, and he must figure out the reason before he or Amy end up dead.
The Good: It’s a slick, intriguing crime thriller. Ron Perlman and Giancarlo Esposito have great characters and the casting is great. Each detective have stories that could carry into their own films if the writers were so inclined. I did like the shots where the killer is talking about his life up to the point where he started his descent into pedophilia and murder, all the while wearing the grotesque mask; and I also liked the similar scenes with Jeter and the detectives. It was kind of an homage to Boondock Saints. It was a fun style of narrative.
The Bad: The film plays out like a pseudo-rip-off of The Usual Suspects, Boondock Saints and Silence of the Lambs. They also recycled some audio from Fight Club – mainly a distinct dog bark. The villain (Michael Eklund) was creepy, but I didn’t buy him as a pedophile/rapist. His character was more comical than maniacal. The title is a little misleading as there is no actual poker in Poker Night – they tell us the hands rather than show us, which felt kind of cheap. The ending was cheesy and fell flat. They leave it open for a possible sequel, but at this point when they tell us all the secrets, who cares?
I enjoyed Poker Night, but the writers spent too much time on the clever detective stories and peppering the script with comedic visuals (like the “Old Faithful of Sperm” scene) than the payoff. I was entertained, but not truly satisfied. They had so many great characters and didn’t utilize them to their potential.
Total Rating: B
Reviewed by: JM Willis