The reviews of Daniel Farriol:
Poker Face is a thriller American which is run by Russell Crowe (the master of water), who also co-writes the script with Stephen M. Coates (John Doe: Vigilante). The story follows a billionaire poker player who one day gives his best childhood friends the chance to win more money than they ever dreamed of. The game will serve to reveal unexpected secrets, but as the night progresses, dangerous intruders who were not invited to the reunion party will appear. It stars Russell Crowe (The forging of a championWild), Liam Hemsworth (Most Dangerous Game, Arkansas: A Dangerous Place), Elsa Pataky (Interceptor, The land of the tides), RZA, Jacqueline McKenzie, Matt Nable, K. Callan y Lynn Gilmartin. The film has been released in Spain by the hand of Vertex Cinema on January 13, 2023.
A project born of chaos can only generate more chaos
8 years have passed since that interesting behind-the-scenes debut of the New Zealand actor Russell Crowe con the master of water (2014), a classic epic drama that augured a good future for him as a director. However, his second film is a tremendous fiasco whose filming was cataloged by himself as “the most tortuous 12 months of my life.”
Poker Face constantly walks a tightrope that separates reflective drama from thriller criminal without knowing very well where he wants to opt. The project came to the director just 5 weeks before shooting began, without a planned cast, with a script that had to be rewritten at a rapid pace and with the sets half-built, but he still decided to embark on the adventure of shooting as a personal catharsis after his father died a week before and he is still recovering from the loss of his good friend Andrew Lesniethe cinematographer who helped him with his debut feature.
The months of filming did not help things improve either due to the strict Covid protocol (with a positive that disrupted the work plan) and a set that was flooded after torrential rain in New South Wales. As is logical, all these situations and circumstances are impossible to hide in the result of a film that exudes chaos on all four sides.
a game of karma
The argument of Poker Face It seems written on the fly and that it starts from an idea with stupendous dramatic possibilities. The protagonist is Jake Foley (Russell Crowe), a billionaire who has amassed his fortune as a poker player and who, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, decides that before he dies he must reunite with his best childhood friends to settle some pending accounts, what better than to do it with a game of cards in his mansion? The story is told to us through a voice in off narrative where the character himself conveys his most intimate thoughts to us and tries to explain what are the motivations that lead him to raise the bet during the game.
And it is that, after a brief passage through the memories that serve to establish with images the strong bond between the group of friends, we will discover that Jake has acquired a powerful poison through a shaman (the absurd scenes begin) that in large doses it can be deadly, but with just a few drops it acts as a kind of “truth serum”. This gives us to understand that the poker game is going to become a “karma game” (as someone defines it in the film) that serves to put the cards on the table and for everyone to be honest with each other to bring out the secrets and lies that they have been accumulating during all these years when they became adults.
Jake’s friends and the surprise intruder
Jake’s friends (but not Peter’s) are Michael Nankervis (Liam Hemsworth), Andrew Johnson (RZA), Alex Harris (Aden Young) and Paul Muccino (Steve Sticks). Unfortunately, the characters are very poorly defined and that starting point is not taken advantage of, which could have given rise to a tense thriller psychological simmered. We will only know that there is a corrupt politician, a drunk with suicidal tendencies and that one of the four is the secret lover of Jake’s wife with whom he is already in divorce proceedings. The vengeful plan turns out not to be such, and the actual intentions of the host are much more benevolent. The moralistic message that the film gives off reveals the need to recover the origins of who we were in order to face death with dignity, being honest with the people we love and thus forgiving those imperfections that we all have.
Worst of all is when we discover that the card game conducted by the dealer Penelope (Elsa Pataky) is not going to be the central axis of the narrative and is only a mere excuse to start the meeting. In a new arbitrary turn of events, some robbers led by Victor (Paul Tassone), a man who seems to be very angry with Jake although that relationship is not explored either, who want to get hold of the works of art that the “poker face” has decorating the walls of the entire house.
So, after half the movie lurching around with Jake’s friends and other inconsistent family subplots (the former deceased wife, the daughter, etc), it turns out that what they really offer us is a routine home invasion past laps (Victor’s character is a caricature in himself) with the five friends facing the criminals on duty. The action plot takes reflections away from the gaming table and everything becomes nonsense (if it wasn’t already) as big as the idea of turning a computer poker game into a military surveillance program (what the hell was that coming from? that?). The only thing that saves Poker Face To burn all its copies at the stake is a luxurious set design (especially for those who are more fond of Rolexes than Casios) and some notable presence in the cast, not much else.
What do you think of the movie?