Poker Night: A Different Twist to an Aging Genre
The heady days of poker-centric films such as Ocean’s 11 and the Cincinnati Kid becoming big Box Office hits are long gone. Recent stabs at the genre have failed to garner positive Box Office ratings, and seem to get scoffed at by many of the industry’s leading journalists upon release. That didn’t stop indie writer and filmmaker Greg Francis attempting to breathe life into a genre fighting for its life, however.
Greg Francis is known more for his television work behind the scenes of some of America’s best-loved series. Though, to really get noticed in Hollywood, directors often have to step outside their comfort zones to garner exposure from the movie press. Thus, Francis decided to write a horror film that revolved around a poker game. Intrigued?
What readers will initially notice upon looking at the list of cast members is that, regardless of this being an indie, Francis managed to secure some of television’s most relevant actors for Poker Night.
In Poker Night, Francis enlisted a stellar cast including Sons of Anarchy duo Ron Perlman and Titus Welliver, as well as veteran actor Ron Eldard who starred alongside Brad Pitt in Sleepers, and the uber talented Giancarlo Esposito who featured heavily in Breaking Bad.
The film begins with the lead character Stan Jeter, a fast rising cop, being introduced to some battle-hardened peers by his lieutenant. The group regularly bond over a game of poker and swap stories about catching some of the notorious criminals that have fallen at their feet over the years.
During the poker game, Jeter learns some valuable lessons on how to get out of predicaments that will serve him well later in the film. Why will they serve him well? Because Jeter will come face-to-face with crazed psychopathic serial killer hell bent on exacting revenge on Jeter for putting his mentor in prison.
Francis puts an interesting twist on all but dead poker genre in Poker Night. Which is probably why it helped the film appeal to a wider audience especially outside the U.S.
Poker Night had relative success in Japan and other parts of Southeast Asia mainly because of their love for art house horror flicks and also for their penchant for poker. Although there aren’t actually brick and mortar casinos in Japan, there are plenty of casinos online portals that offer language support for Japanese gaming enthusiasts via a series of leading portals. Thus, casino gaming is still very popular across the region and it’s probably why Poker Night was warmly received in the country.
Poker Night’s success in the Western market wasn’t consistent however, with Rotten Tomatoes being less than complimentary about the skittish plotline – but don’t let that deter you, as there’s a lot of interesting characters on show here, especially the masked serial killer, whose personality flaws make for edge-of-your-seat viewing.
It’s the sort of indie film that the Japanese form a cult following for but with Poker Night only garnering $200,000 at the U.S. Box Office, it’s unlikely this’ll be remembered too well in the Western world.
Here’s the official trailer to the film: