Few things are as enticing as a classic film that captures the glitz and glamour of the gambling world. But what is even better is a timeless movie that delves into the often-harsh reality beneath the polished appearance of destinations like Las Vegas. Films centered on gambling possess a natural sense of tension since they revolve around taking chances. It is not particularly enjoyable to witness someone act conservatively and sensibly. However, observing a person who continuously risks everything in a wild and irrational quest for an elusive big win is thrilling.
The protagonists in these movies share many similarities with the classic archetype of a seasoned cop who tackles one last case before quitting. Countless individuals have been interested in gaming since ancient times, creating numerous casino-centric movies over the years. These films explore historical periods and locations, transporting audiences to places like Atlantic City, Monte Carlo, and Las Vegas. Along the way, viewers are introduced to a diverse cast of poker players and treated to exhilarating sequences of high-stakes gameplay. Whether you love physical real money casino NZ or virtual platforms, here are the top 5 picks of the best gaming movies for NZ punters.
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If you are a fan of Poker, chances are you have already seen Rounders, a must-watch movie in the genre directed by John Dahl. It stars Matt Damon as the main character, Mike McDermott, a law student in New York with a remarkable gift for the games. The film has become an iconic representation of the poker world. After losing all his money to Teddy, played by John Malkovich, Mike quits gambling. However, when his childhood friend is released from prison and needs help paying off debt, Mike is forced to return to the game table. The friend is a poker genius affiliated with the Russian-American mob.
Rounders is a 1998 film that portrays compulsive gambling positively, with the main character risking and losing everything he has. Despite this, he remains a happy gamer in the end. If this were a story about alcoholism, the protagonist would likely order another drink after a near-death experience. In contrast to most gaming movies that serve as cautionary tales, Rounders is more of a recruitment for gamblers. The show inevitably favors poker for New Zealanders, with the audience anticipating the protagonist’s ultimate success.
As a film centered on such a game, it is informative and entertaining. For Kiwis who play the title or read up on it, the show is enjoyable. It delves into the underground world of professional poker in New York and Atlantic City, where everyone knows the top players and games. The movie contains comedic moments, particularly when numerous professional players convene at the same table. Through Mike’s dry voice-over narration, it depicts the unsuspecting gamers who sit down at the table as “suckers.” Rounders does not embrace the theme of the loser. Rather, it is a sports film that follows the talented protagonist who wins, loses, faces adversity, and ultimately goes head-to-head with the champion.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Although not solely focused on gambling, Ocean’s Eleven is renowned as one of the most legendary heist films ever. The 2001 movie, directed by Steven Soderbergh, centers around Danny Ocean, played by George Clooney. He assembles a group of daring and skilled individuals to undertake the grandest heist ever attempted. The primary targets of their plan are the most prominent establishments in Las Vegas, and this gripping film is packed with numerous unexpected developments.
Typically, characters who gamble are portrayed as cautionary tales warning against the perils of addiction. However, like it was depicted in “Rounders,” Steven Soderbergh defies this convention. He injects lively energy into his remake of the outdated Rat Pack heist show. At the outset, George Clooney and Brad Pitt’s effortlessly cool personas face off at the card table. From that point, it becomes apparent that this version of Ocean’s Eleven will embody the smooth and confident atmosphere of contemporary Vegas. Such an environment is characterized by lavish adult entertainment and little destructive behavior.
The cast is stylishly attired and exudes an air of nonchalance, portraying the confidence that true gamblers crave. The director does not focus on the technicalities of gaming, and he also believes that the game’s metaphors are somewhat absurd. He humorously illustrates this in one of the film’s most memorable moments. This is where Danny Ocean talks about the House always winning in a rushed speech he had been practicing. Generally, the basic elements of a heist film are well-established: the ominous exterior shot of the seemingly impenetrable target and the inside knowledge. The voice-over narration as we witness guards performing their duties and the meticulously timed plan also showcase it. The strength of the screenplay lies in its dialogue, as it is crisply witty.
Casino Royale (2006)
Martin Campbell directed this 2006 James Bond movie, a remake of the original 1967 film. The antagonist, Le Chiffre, played by Mads Mikkelsen, is a banker closely associated with some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world. He attends a high-stakes game of Texas Hold’em in Montenegro, where he must win to stay alive and maintain his dangerous client base. James Bond and foreign agent Vesper Lynd also participate in the game to prevent Le Chiffre from winning and walking away with the money. Bond must use all his skills and experience to play the best poker game of his life and safeguard international security.
The movie is a captivating mix of classic Bond elements, including thrilling fight scenes, sophistication, high risks, wealth, and witty banter. Most of the action sequences in Casino Royale are portrayed in a way that approximates real space and time. It is entirely fresh and could serve as a perfect introduction to the Bond series for New Zealanders. Undoubtedly, Daniel Craig is a remarkable Bond. He is more reserved, physically and emotionally vulnerable, less preoccupied with sex, and indifferent to whether his martini is shaken or stirred. Nevertheless, his portrayal of Bond in this film is exceptional, redefining the character in a fresh, exciting way.
Director Martin Campbell amps up the tension in the long poker game by daringly focusing on the eyes of the two primary adversaries for lengthy periods. This is particularly effective since Le Chiffre’s left eye weeps tears of blood, resulting in a classic Bond one-liner. Bond’s disappearances from the game are more intriguing than usual. Casino Royale concludes with the obligatory romantic scene on a tropical beach before taking a sudden, unexpected turn. The screenplay delivers one of the most breathtaking and sensational scenes ever set in Venice or any other location.
Based on a true story, “21”, directed by Robert Luketic, offers a unique coming-of-age experience centered on the lure of gambling. The protagonist, Ben Campbell, played by Jim Sturgess, is a student seeking a scholarship to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. His math professor, Kevin Spacey, recognizes his financial struggle and mathematical prowess. He invites him to join a secret club comprising other gifted individuals, where they journey to Las Vegas. The team includes Kate Bosworth, Aaron Yoo, Jacob Pitts, and Josh Gad. However, the desire for wealth and the addiction to wagering begin to corrode the group, leading them into dangerous circumstances marked by infidelity and hedonism.
“21” is a 2008 film adaptation of Ben Mezrich’s partially embellished true story about the MIT Blackjack Team that successfully outsmarted the casino for almost a decade. It transforms the intriguing narrative of mathematics and business into a clumsy heist flick. The screenplay briefly offers a glimpse into the science of intelligent gambling before becoming a violent spectacle of Spacey’s abduction and assault in a hotel room.
The popularity of the multibillion-dollar Vegas gambling industry cannot be attributed solely to the pursuit of victory. If gambling were truly about winning, there would be insufficient players to sustain the industry. It is widely recognized that the house has a predetermined advantage, and individuals engage in wagering for excitement rather than reward. The majority of participants will not win, only a few emerge as victorious. This is what makes gambling a consistently lucrative enterprise. Imagine someone who developed a system that utilized basic math to provide a blackjack player with an advantage over the dealer. That is one of the thrilling concepts “21” depicts. A major takeaway from the movie is to keep an eye out for the scene where someone obviously holds back from punching.
Molly’s Game (2017)
Molly’s Game is based on the memoir of Molly Bloom, a former champion skier who transitions to organizing underground poker games after a tragic accident. Jessica Chastain’s performance as Molly is brimming with confidence, leading us through the exhilarating yet illegal and financially rewarding world of high-stakes gambling. The rush of the game is palpable, and the audience is introduced to some deeply poignant characters. This includes the heartbreaking portrayal of Bill Camp’s hopeless gambler, whose downfall is agonizing to watch. Molly Bloom exudes confidence and charisma, always in control of any room she enters, except when she isn’t. Despite her real-life story as the “Poker Princess,” her quick-witted and articulate nature make her feel like a character of Aaron Sorkin, the director.
The 2017 film is a showcase of Sorkin’s trademark style of impossibly intelligent characters exchanging rapid-fire dialogue. Sorkin holds nothing back in the two-plus-hour runtime, letting his signature hose of dialogue blast at full force, for better or worse. While it is slightly overlong, he maintains a brisk pace, especially in the opening scenes. Here, Molly recounts her past as an Olympic-caliber skier and the tragic accident that changed her life’s trajectory. In order to prove her worth and differentiate herself from her overachieving brothers, Molly moves to Los Angeles instead of pursuing law school as planned. There, she stumbles upon organizing an underground poker game for a wannabe Hollywood player, Jeremy Strong, at the Cobra Lounge.
Although Molly’s transformation is overwhelming, Chastain’s confident and grounded performance pulls it off effortlessly. She quickly takes control of the game and elevates it to new heights, both literally and figuratively. Sorkin employs images and graphics to captivate the audience’s attention and energize the screenplay. Despite being in a male-dominated world, Molly is a fierce competitor who has managed to reign supreme. However, it is unfortunate that her triumphs could not have been fully depicted in her own captivating and intricate conditions. According to poker experts, “Molly’s Game” accurately portrays the game.
Casinos and gambling have played a significant role in shaping societal and cultural aspects. This is while maintaining an air of mystery and allure that draws players from around the globe. As a gaming enthusiast, it is normal that you find interest in activities connected to it. One such is watching movies about it. You find yourself experiencing the thrills and fun of wagering through the characters in the screenplay. From there, you learn new tricks and strategies to utilize for winning big when betting with real money. The films also present a classic avenue to relax and have fun around the things you love doing.
Some of the best movies for this experience have been highlighted above. They include Rounders, Ocean’s Eleven, Casino Royale, 21, and Molly’s Game. Whether you prefer the ambiance of a physical casino or the convenience of online wagering, you are in for a ride. There is no denying the captivating performances and storylines found in these iconic films that have stood the test of time. From riveting biographical accounts of legendary gamblers to high-octane thrillers, these top picks are definitely a brew of entertainment for Kiwis. Their exploration of the themes of theft, card counting, and the seedy underworld lurking beneath the bright lights are sure to fascinate bettors.
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