Poker FaceRussell Crowe’s new directorial effort could have been more than it is, but it ultimately collapses by trying to be too many things at once.
Poker Face is Russell Crowe’s second major foray into directing. After ‘El maestro de l’aigua’ in 2014, comes this film where the well-known Oscar-winning actor stands at the director’s feet. The title directly suggests -the trailer to a great extent too- a film that will revolve around poker, but not at all about it. The tape, on the other hand, offers one overloaded narrative whose countless elements barely have time to develop before reaching the end credits. A mix of intrigue, suspense and telefilm relationships that never seem to work togetherdespite having a good production and a colorful cast.
Poker Face puts us in the shoes of Jake Foley (Russell Crowe) who together with his best friend Andrew (RZA) founded the first online poker company. As a result, Jake he becomes incredibly rich. Currently, after a spiritual consultation with a guru, arranges a meeting with the other three childhood friends: Alex (Aden Young), Mike (Liam Hemsworth) and Paul (Steve Bastoni); to those who will make an offer they cannot refuse.
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Crowe does it all
I am not short when I say that Poker Face is a product of Russell Crowesince in addition to being the director, he is also the screenwriter, the main actor and even the author of some of the songs of the soundtrack, which transforms the film into a kind of one-man show thatalthough Crowe’s charisma and screen presence are undeniable, it just doesn’t work. We must not forget that the triumph has always come from the performance.
It doesn’t take much to come to the conclusion that Poker Face it is a rare film in its structure. A structure where different ‘beginnings’ will be concatenated one after the other, each more disparate than the previous one, which will do nothing more than confuse the viewer and hide the true nature of the film. After several minutes where you wonder if you’re in the wrong room – even with Crowe out, the first 25 minutes are infinitely different from what was shown in the trailer – the childhood friends come into play and it begins – now yes – the disastrous main plot, where little by little something about a poker game will be mentioned – oh look, that’s what the title is about – only to find out later that it’s just an excuse to advance the plot to a point completely new where the game is people and not cards. However, when the plot reveals all the cards -given the redundancy-, none of the twists are really remarkable enough to impress. For more, the characters barely get any development beyond a name and three sentences about his present, preventing the viewer from empathizing in the slightest with any of them. It also doesn’t help that there’s a general indecisiveness to the film’s tonewhich relies on pretentious drama, unfounded suspense, and action scenes that lead to some sort of b-movie heist.
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When finally Poker Face ends, one can’t help but feel confusedtrying to understand the banter he just witnessed. The script, which looks like a draft given its endless mistakesit has a few interesting ideas and a couple of intriguing subplots, but due to the fact that everything remains confined to a superficial level, under no circumstances can it go deeper into the viewer. Crowe took over the project by replacing another director, rewrote the script twice and transformed it into a more intimate and personal film. Of course, when a movie starts this way, it doesn’t usually end very well, and that’s the case with Poker Face.