Poker Night (2014): Movie Review

Now, when looking at the cover of this movie I wasn’t sure how it would go. After all, Poker Night isn’t a title which evokes thoughts of horror, or even a crime thriller. But, it’s certainly managed to surprise me.

The Movie

Poker Night is a gritty, sometimes gruesome, thriller which was released in 2014 and written and directed by Greg Francis. The movie stars, Beau Mirchoff, who was born on Friday 13th, and is ideally placed for a role in a creepy movie. Movie icons Ron Perlman and Giancarlo Esposito also appear in the film.

Poker Night tells the story of a young detective who is caught in a sadistic game after being kidnapped by a serial killer.

The Review

Now it’s easy to assume with the title that this is a film that revolves around the popular casino game. But don’t worry, viewers don’t need to be huge fans of the game. All you need to know is the basics of poker, a vague grasp of how cards are dealt, how betting occurs, what it looks like for a player to win a hand and you’re all set for the ride. What about that ride then?

Poker Night instantly evokes the feel of a mid 90’s horror classic. It begins with Stan Jeter, a young detective (Mirchoff) looking rather dishevelled, bloodied and pain stricken on the ground. Before heading into a moment of narration about wisdom and hindsight, which sets up the premise for the rest of the movie. It’s a picture full of flashback moments as Jeter tries to unravel the circumstances of his kidnapping, and that of his girlfriend from a masked psycho.

These flashbacks often come as tales from around the poker table with Jeter, the newest member of Warsaw Indiana Police Department, being regaled with stories from his colleague’s most memorable cases. By unpicking some of these memories, Jeter is to arm himself with the tools to try to gain freedom for him and his girlfriend. The villain played by Michael Eklund is convincing and certainly invokes fear into the viewer – the sign of any good horror character. But his performance shouldn’t come as a surprise, it’s not the first time he’s played a role as the creepy protagonist.

Whilst it’s not the most complicated of movies, or even the most memorable plot, the standouts are definitely the performances of the ‘cops at the table’. Perlman is fantastic in his role as Calabrese, just as is Esposito playing the part of Bernard. The dialogue and camaraderie between the cops is entirely believable. They certainly bring a gravitas to what at times is a haphazard film, and therein lies the movie’s biggest issue. It has some really impressive moments but it has a feeling that the director has tried to make the movie do too much, it’s like it’s eager to impress rather than letting the storytelling do the work.

Maybe that’s why Poker Night didn’t really succeed in the box office, but it’s one of those movies that could get a new life on a streaming service. There have been various original horror productions which have had success after heading to Netflix, proving that viewers of the streaming giant are always up for a scare.

Poker Night isn’t the best horror movie around. But if you want something that’s not over complicated, and has a couple of moments of dark humor thrown in for good measure. You might just enjoy the experience.

6.5/10

– Contributed Post

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