Thursday, June 24, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #35, Deal

Some of these "worst" movies are enjoyably bad and some of them are just plain bad. Some of them stand out in my memory and some of them are so forgettable that I'll have to refer back to the reviews to remember how I felt about them (case in point: #32, Deuces Wild, which I just looked at because I saw on the list that I watched it and couldn't remember anything about it except one actor and the setting). Unfortunately, Deal falls into the latter categories. I've pretty much already forgotten everything about this movie and I just finished it twenty minutes ago.

On the good side (sort of) for the movie, something this forgettable and boring doesn't seem to fit on the list. The movie is bad, no doubt. It cost around five million dollars to make and earned a whopping $57,000 at the box office, which is certainly more than it deserved. It's really bad, but it just doesn't seem that bad because it is so uneventfully dull. At one point, I threw a fit because I looked to see how much was left in the movie and it had only been on for half an hour. I thought I was at least an hour in.

That bad timing doesn't just come from boredom, it comes because this is one of the worst-paced movies I can remember. It clocks in at an epic 82 minutes before the credits and the measly story itself wraps up even more quickly, because the final half-hour is devoted only to the final table at the World Poker Tour championsips. Yep, it's a poker movie. And, like every poker movie in history besides Rounders, it's very obviously written by people who have never actually played poker. Every hand comes down to some monster like a full house or better. The tell is more important than any other factor in the game. All of the players say really witty things that don't make much sense and then make plays that make even less sense. The announcers and real poker players play themselves badly with awful dialogue. In this case, "the real poker players" refers mostly to just Phil Laak because the footage of Raymer, Nguyen, Negreanu, and company, looks like it was taken by someone who had hidden a camera and ran away as soon as they got a second of footage.

The camera work is maddening with its swooping motions and there is not one scene -- not one -- that doesn't include some sort of music or background noise that detracts from anything going on. It's okay, though, because the story is inconsequential. There is a young hotshot who is not yet as good as he thinks. A washed-up star who never won the big one takes the kid under his wing to teach him. He even ends up getting a prostitute to give the kid confidence, but the kid thinks the girl really likes him and then flips out when he finds the truth. Come to think of it, that's sort of the plot of Bull Durham, so I don't even have to say that this film sounds unoriginal because it actually is. Kid ends up playing teacher in the poker championship. They learn a lesson about what's important in life. They go home happy. I scream at the TV because none of the poker makes any f***ing sense.

The only "redeeming" quality here is that the washed-up star is played by Burt Reynolds. I don't think most people realize what a big freaking movie star Reynolds was back in the '70s and '80s. He's even had some decent roles as he's gotten older, such as in Mystery, Alaska and Boogie Nights. Granted, both of those movies came out over ten years ago. He was also pretty funny on My Name is Earl, though. He's kept the mustache and let his hair grow white as he's gotten older (hard to believe he turned 74 this year). Well, he let his hair grow white except for in this movie. I can't tell whether he dyed his hair or just dunked it in a vat of shoe polish, because it is eerily black. Like a doll's eyes. Like a strange blackness that can only be stopped if Atreyu succeeds in getting to the Ivory Tower in time. On top of the hair that actually sucked the light out of surrounding items, there is a little joy in one scene at the end that is so poorly acted that I squealed in delight and watched it twice. Awkward dialogue, weird close-ups, poorly-timed delivery.

If you needed any other reason to think that poker is just a game and not a real sport, look at the dearth of good poker movies. There are great baseball ones, football ones, basketball ones, even a great soccer one (Victory). There is one great poker movie. There is a good poker scene in The Sting, but only one scene and everyone's cheating anyway. If Hollywood is going to keep trying to use the drama of a tight card game, they need to find a way to write realistic poker. Otherwise, you'll just end up with this movie, which I can't quite remember the name of right now, but I'll eventually figure out when it comes on HBO at 2AM some night and I flip to it because it's about poker and then start screaming in agony because I'll remember I already saw it.


Anonymous said...

Burt Reynolds is bald...his hair color is entirely up to his wig guy.


Josh said...

I didn't know that, but I can't be surprised. I assumed it was real because the color has been so consistently white lately, but that should probably be a hint.

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