isnt very often that movies about gambling
and especially poker come across any of the
forms of media from Hollywood. Arguably the best known
of this genre is the seminal poker film Rounders and
there are few other examples that would compare (for
comedy, check out The Grand and, to help Matt Savages
retirement fund, go for Lucky You). A new effort that
didnt even go to the silver screen is now drawing
attention for its realistic look at gambling and poker.
of the best things that has come from the streaming
services such as Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix is
that they are now developing their own programming.
Thats where a fan of gambling films can find
Win It All, streaming on Netflix basically any time
that the viewer wants to watch it. The movie has a
95% approval rating on the movie website Rotten Tomatoes
(based on 20 reviews) and an average rating of 7.5
out of 10, while it also garners a 78 (on a scale
of 100) on the website Metacritic.
movie focuses on Eddie Garrett (Jake Johnson, known
for his work on the Fox comedy New Girl), a gambler
whose day job is parking cars at Wrigley Field in
Chicago (for anyone who has ever tried to park in
the neighborhood surrounding the home of the Cubs,
youll understand the job) and who by night is,
as his Gamblers Anonymous sponsor Gene (Keegan-Michael
Key of the Comedy Central program Key & Peele),
someone who has never won. But things
are about to change for Garrett after he does a favor
for a friend of his named Michael (Jose Antonio Garcia):
hold onto a duffel bag while he is incarcerated, but
dont look inside it.
it should be easy to do a favor, curiosity gets the
better of Eddie and he eventually cracks open the
bag to find a crapload of money inside. And, naturally,
because he is a compulsive gambler, Eddie eventually
blows the money in the bag through a variety of gambling
means. Where the twist comes to the movie is when
Michael calls Eddie from prison to let him know that
hes being released early and Eddie must come
up with the money that hes lost in the only
way he knows gambling.
premise may not be appealing to those who consider
themselves professional gamblers, but
Win It All works because of the directing of the film.
Director Joe Swanberg gives the film a great look
at how the underground gambling scene works (he also
films it very well), but Swanberg also doesnt
shirk scenes away from the world of gambling.
Win It All is as much a look at the gambling world
as it is a glimpse into the mind and psychology of
a person who tries to do the right things but sometimes
may be a better effort than what could be coming down
the pike soon. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has finished
his directorial debut in Mollys Game, his adaptation
of The Poker Princess Molly Blooms
story of working in the world of underground poker.
The story of Bloom is well known to most in the poker
world, how she went from a former Olympic hopeful
to the organizer and host for the biggest high stakes
cash games in first Hollywood and then New York. The
problem with Mollys Game? Sorkin doesnt
plan to tell the whole story.
many occasions, Sorkin has stated he will not delve
into the players who took part in the games, going
as far as to not name them at all. That would mean
ignoring (or at least putting on fictitious players)
vast swaths of Blooms book where she talks about
such power players as Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck,
Tobey Maguire and other Hollywood producers and businessmen.
Sorkin has also said that Mollys Game isnt
about the poker but about Blooms journey
to finding who she is.
problem for Mollys Game is that it has lined
up some A-list talent for what might be a horrendous
story. Two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain
will play Bloom, with Idris Elba slated to play her
attorney and be a major plot driver. Others such as
Kevin Costner, Michael Cera and Jeremy Strong are
also a part of the project, which is slated for release
later this year.
the Sorkin film premieres, we might have to do with
Win It All to satisfy the jones for gambling movies.
If the reviews are correct, it may be the better of
the two films.