Rounders * * * 1/2

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Director: John Dahl.
Screenplay: David Levien, Brian Koppelman.
Starring: Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Turturro, John Malkovich, Martin Landau, Gretchen Mol, Famke Janssen, Michael Rispoli, Josh Mostel, Tom Aldredge, Michael Lombard, Chris Messina, Goran Visnjic, David Zayas, Johnny Chan.

Director John Dahl done a couple of great modern noir films in the 90’s that shamefully went unrecognised (“Red Rock West” & “The Last Seduction”) but finally he got some attention with this film, helped by a fine cast.

Mike (Matt Damon) is a law student who happens to be more interested in playing poker. He has the skills but stupidly lost all his money to Russian gangster “Teddy KGB” (John Malkovich) and is now on the straight and narrow and has promised his girlfriend that he’s finished with that life. That is until his long time friend and poker partner “Worm” (Edward Norton) is released from prison. “Worm” owes money all over town and the ever loyal Mike is drawn back into the game and back into the life he doesn’t need or want.

The story is formulaic and has been covered many times before but what really makes the film worthwhile are some great performances. Damon is reliable as always with nice supporting roles for John Turturro and Martin Landau. However, the film tends to sag a little but really kicks back into gear whenever Edward Norton appears onscreen. He is absolutely superb as the aptly named “Worm”, a detestable slimeball of a character, who causes more hassle than he’s worth.

A flawed film that occasionally loses your interest but there’s still enough moments of quality to make it worthwhile.

Worth seeing for Norton’s performance alone.

Mark Walker

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