The true story of a former Olympic class skier who went onto run the worlds most exclusive, high stakes poker game, attracting celebrity names along with the interest of the FBI in the process. Jessica Chastain plays Molly as an ambitious, if initially naive woman who see’s a chance for fortune and infamy after an accident ended her hopes of becoming a skiing champion.
Initially this movie had a feel of the Scorsese hit The Wolf Of Wall Street with it’s regular person rising to riches through not-entirely-legal activities, but director Aaron Sorkin lacks the flair to truly pull it off. Instead we get a simple tale of someone getting way out of their depth fast and failing to check one’s ego at the door. Molly throughout is a rather unsympathetic character and even when she turns to Lawyer Idris Elba who tries every trick in the book to reduce the heat on her back, that lust for power and credit for herself constantly wins out. Chastain is gorgeous and pretty damn sexy despite a flawed character and the movie knows it, showcasing her obvious ‘charms’ every chance it gets – which is all the time. Thankfully a back story involving an effective, if clichéd pushy-father-under-loved daughter relationship at least gives Molly some depth. Yet Idris Elba’s questionable American accent fails to showcase Sorkin’s complex but brilliantly written dialogue the way I’m guessing the director intended.
Overall this is a fascinating true story but lacks a degree of sensationalism that may have upped the entertainment, due to a reliance on discretion when having the opportunity to name drop any famous faces (player x for anyone interested, was rumoured to be Toby Maguire). So from what I hear this remains somewhat a missed opportunity compared to the more warts and all book the movie is based on.
I first saw this acclaimed mob drama a number of year’s ago, and even though I knew it was based on a true story, only recently have I learned about the real-life events the story follows. Robert DeNiro plays professional gambler Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein who gets the opportunity to run the Tangier’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in the late seventies. He makes a big pil o’ cash for the mob ‘back home’ and attracts former childhood friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) who also has ideas of making a killing on the strip…literally and figuratively. Meanwhile Ace falls for glamorous hustler Ginger (Sharon Stone) who soon complicates everyone’s lives.
A spiritual successor to director Martin Scorsese’s other famed mob classic Goodfellas, reuniting DeNiro with Pesci … who pretty much plays the same type of unhinged psycho that nabbed him an Oscar in ‘Fellas. DeNiro however, despite his character’s connections to the mob, is more the straight guy trying to avoid any sort of ‘heat’ – and his presence here commands the movie from beginning to end. Stone is a welcome inclusion to the Scorsese mob-movie fold and adds her usual sexy sass and grit in a role that pretty much enables this movie to have it’s own voice. At a butt-numbing three hours it can sometimes drag, yet the situations, strong performances and the whole glitz of the setting (not to mention a stellar soundtrack) make for great entertainment. It’s incredibly violent at times, to the point of being gratuitous (especially towards the end) and the story isn’t as engrossing as it thinks it is. Also some of the ‘artistic licence’ with the facts remain puzzling (Tangiers is fictional, based on the famed Stardust hotel) and DeNiro and Pesci’s character names are made up, but based on Frank Rosenthal and Anthony Spilotro respectively. Yet to quibble at this is to do the movie a disservice, as it remains another decent, if familiar mob drama from the true master of the subject.
The Blu-ray, re-issued for the movie’s 20th anniversary has a very nice image quality, retaining grain and detail even if some shots (especially in door and night time scenes) get a little fuzzy. The sound in DTS HD Master Audio, which is very dialogue-driven is mostly excellent and the fantastic soundtrack really brings this one to life. Vegas looks incredible also. The extras consist of a ‘moments with the cast & crew’ option which has pop up interviews as the movie plays. We also get a couple of detailed documentaries, as well as a few deleted scenes. However, there doesn’t seem anything here that wasn’t on previous releases … making for a bit of a cash-in.
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