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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Rounders

Starring: Matt Damon, Edward Norton
Director: John Dahl
Rated: R
RunTime: 118 Minutes
Release Date: September 1998
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Famke Janssen, Martin Landau, John Malkovich, Gretchen Mol, John Turturro, Melina Kanakaredes

Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4

In "Good Will Hunting," Matt Damon played a young genius who secretly wanted to get off the streets and get an education. This time, he plays hustler, or "rounder," who secretly wants to get out of law school and back into the viciously competitive world of high-stakes poker. John Dahl, who directed "Red Rock West" and "The Last Seduction," quickly makes us familiar with the dark caves where fortunes change hands as fast as the time it takes you to say "card shark."

Damon plays a hotshot who was paying for his New York law school education by playing poker until, one night, he lost his entire savings - $33,000 - on one hand to John Malkovich as an Oreo cookie-chomping Russian mobster named KGB. After that stunning defeat, he promises his live-in law-school girl-friend, Gretchen Mol (cover-girl, Sept. issue of "Vanity Fair"), to give up cards. But, once his old friend, Edward Norton, aptly called "Worm," is paroled from prison after serving a sentence for a scam they pulled together, you know the deck is stacked for him to return to his passion - the gaming tables. And he does - with a vengeance, as Martin Landau scores as a rabbi-like professor and John Turturro as a shrewd gambler. The problem is: poker is not much of a spectator sport. While it's fascinating to see how the players calculate who holds what cards and who can play malevolent mind-games best, the pumped-up testosterone of David Levien and Brian Koppelman's script affects the participants far more than the observers. It's John Dahl's brilliant direction and clever casting that propels "Rounders" into a bet-it-all "Rocky" showdown. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Rounders" is a seductively savvy, suspense-filled 7, proving what Landau says: "We can't run from who we are. Our destiny chooses us."

Copyright 1998 Susan Granger

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