Welcome to day three of Matt Damon week here at TVE. Today we take a look at another early movie from his rising career, and one of my favorites as well. And no, we are not f’n Matt Damon.
Director: John Dahl
I’m an easy mark when it comes to gambling and/or billiards, or even bowling movies. These are the sports of men who were born without the ability to dunk a basketball, or hit homeruns etc… The Hustler with Paul Newman, Pool Hall Junkies, and the Cincinnati Kid with Steve McQueen were some of my most watched movies in my teenage years. In the late 90s, Rounders continued that tradition featuring Matt Damon as a young poker prodigy who at various times gambles away everything he has, but comes out A-OK in the end. This movie features great supporting talent in a young Ed Norton, the lovely Gretchen Mol as the love interest (who was also great in Boardwalk Empire) and my hometown’s very own John Malkovich who plays the Final Boss at level ten, that is, if this were a video game. This is a movie that is more about style and fun than about any substantive issues. Damon’s character has a gambling problem sure, and he gets roughed up a little bit, but in the end, he is able to use his skills to gamble his way out of his gambling dilemma in a situation most of us would have wound up in a dumpster had we been in a similar spot. This is a movie that definitely knows its poker. I went through a phase where I watched the World Series of poker on ESPN, and I knew most of the names of the famous players, some of whom appear in this movie. With a little more something extra here, this movie could have on the level of the Hustler with Paul Newman. I think in the end this movie perhaps suffers from having too happy of an ending. In the Hustler, Fast Eddie wins out in the end, but he does not walk away unscathed at all. Here, Damon’s character maybe learns a lesson or two, but they are most likely the wrong ones. Still, this is a very fun movie and a fine early performance for young Matthew.