Poker Face (Film Review) Dir: Russell Crowe

Poker Face is the second feature directed by Russell Crowe who also wrote the screenplay and stars in this psychological thriller set in Sydney.

Starring: Russell Crowe, Liam Hemswoth, RZA, Elsa Pataky, Jack Thompson

According to the press notes, Crowe came on board as director six weeks before shooting was to begin, saving the project from certain collapse. Russell then re-wrote the script with his own recent personal traumas (his father recently passed) feeding the fire.

Poker Face“I took a few plot points and retained the characters names and started again to build out a story that I could invest in. The position I was in, led me to the idea of legacy and the idea of trying to have some means of control in the period after you’re not around.”

If that explanation sounds a bit convoluted, well, it fits with the final result. As the film works it way to its climatic ending, one wonders just how many side-stories, sub-plots and ancillary characters are really needed here.

Poker FaceThe film begins with teenage Jake Foley (Crowe’s character) and his buddies enjoying a swim and some poker at an idyllic Australian waterfall…having good natured fun until a few older bullies show up and try to ruin the vibe.

Fast-forward to present day and young Jake is now a self-made billionaire with all the trimmings…a teenage daughter, a second wife (number one has died tragically) and a death sentence.

With mortality staring him in the face, Jake reunites is old teenage buddies and invited them around for a game of cards. But the stake are much higher than anyone planned on.

Initially one gets the feeling that the film with play out around the poker table, but due to outside influences that include a cheating wife, a possible poisoning, an attempted suicide and a trio of crims who break into steal Jake’s art collection (one of the three ‘happens’ to be the bully from way back when).

Soon the film goes from card caper to armed robbery (and the good guys have only one bullet).

Poker Face’s problem is that there are just too many sub plots, dark secrets and characters to keep track of. Perhaps it was just me, but I found myself struggling to understand much of the dialogue in the sound mix…maybe it was the Aussie accent, but I don’t think so.

To be fair, the film does eventually tighten up and give us a satisfying ending, and all in 95 minutes!

So, Poker Face does have its problems, but it was a decent way to spend the evening. If you’re a Russell Crowe fan, check it out as it is well made and well acted, but the script could have used a few more edits.

Marty Duda

Poker Face opens in cinemas today