this case, poker is not a metaphor for thermonuclear war or anything else. It
is a social convention. As a rookie detective in Warsaw, Indiana, the newbie is
expected to lose money and listen to the stories of the crafty veterans to gain
from their hard-earned experiences. Unfortunately, he will only have one night
of lessons to apply before he is abducted by a serial killer in Greg Francis’s Poker Night (trailer here), which releases on
VOD and in select theaters this Friday.
made a name for himself breaking a big case, but at least one of the grizzled
detectives is not convinced the whippersnapper deserves his seat at the table.
However, the legendary Det. Calabrese (played by Ron Perlman) is in his corner,
so end of discussion. Each of the four greybeards relates an anecdote with
practical applications that Jeter will realize over time, as he languishes
chained up in the hooded maniac’s customized basement.
to Jeter’s distress, his captor is also holding Amy Maxwell, the daughter of
his least welcoming colleague, with whom he has been carrying on a dangerously
flirtatious but not yet criminal relationship. He quickly draws his first
conclusion: his predicament is not random. It is personal.
Poker Night is about as uneven
as a film can get. When it features great character actors like Perlman,
Giancarlo Esposito, and Titus Welliver trash talking and telling sea stories,
it is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the vanilla Beau Mirchoff is no match for
any of them, yet he carries the film’s dramatic load. He even takes their
places on camera as he starts to envision their stories through his eyes.
there is a distinctive streak of pitch black humor running through the film.
Francis also turns a few good twists, but he does not know when to stop. The
ultimate ending (following several false stops) makes absolutely no sense
within the film’s narrative context. Sensitive viewers should be further warned,
Poker Night can get a little rough.
Strictly speaking, it is more of a thriller than a horror film, but you can
definitely see the Saw franchise from
Night’s concept would work better as an ongoing television show than a
one-shot feature. Each week, a different reminiscence could illuminate dumb plodding
Jeter’s latest case. It would also force the showrunner to keep things more focused
and grounded, which would be all to the good. Nevertheless, it is hard to get
really down on any film that lets Perlman and Esposito do their thing. Strictly
for the cult stars’ fans, Poker Night launches
on VOD and opens simultaneously in limited release tomorrow (12/5).
Labels: Giancarlo Esposito, Ron Perlman, Serial killer movies