Casino Film Reviews 6 - 10
6. 21 (2008) Colombia Pictures
The film “21” is based upon the true story of the MIT Blackjack team and stars Jim Sturgess, Lawrence Fishburne and Kevin Spacey. The movie begins as Ben Campbell (Sturgess) is awarded a place at Harvard Medical School from MIT. Unfortunately, Campbell can’t afford the tuition fees and is not guaranteed to gain a scholarship despite flawless grades and must “dazzle” the University administrator to achieve the funding.
The film then reverts back to MIT and sees Campbell’s professor, Mickey Rosa (Spacey) challenging Campbell and then recruiting him into his Blackjack team. Reluctant at first, Campbell agrees after realising he can use it to pay for his tuition. After weeks of training, Campbell is passed fit and joins the side as a “Big Player.”
The team hit Vegas and all is going well until Campbell’s success makes a team member Fisher jealous. This results in a melee at the table which alerts the attention of security chief Cole Williams (Fishburne). Back at MIT things aren’t moving smoothly for Campbell as the gaming is affecting his work and distracted after being cast out by his fellow students, returns to Vegas and costs the team $200,000. Rosa walks out but Campbell and the team continue until he is caught by Williams and given a severe beating and warning.
Upon returning to MIT, things have taken a further turn for the worse as he is told he won’t graduate and his winnings have all been stolen from his room, suspecting that Rosa is the chief architect. Campbell offers Rosa the chance to join the team for one last big hit. After winning $640,000 Rosa flees with what he believes to be the cash but turns out to be chocolate money and he is apprehended by Williams who had made a deal with Campbell to get his hands on Rosa. As he leaves, Williams holds Campbell up at gun point for the cash assuring him everything will work out. The end sees us pan back to the beginning as Campbell relates the story to the suitably ‘dazzled’ administrator.
7. Casino (1995) Universal Pictures: Martin Scorcese.
Casino is based on the book written by Nicholas Pileggi and Larry Shandling which shares the same title. The film stars Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci and is set at a fictional casino in Las Vegas run by the mob, which mirrors real events that happened in Vegas’ more shady past.
The film starts with Sam “Ace” Rothstein’s (De Niro) car blowing up as he turns the ignition and then heads back to the days when Rothstein worked for the mob as a sports betting handicapper. Recognising his gambling talents and experience the mob assigns Rothstein to run the Tangiers casino in Vegas, a huge money making operation for them. Rothstein is an instant success, making the Casino huge sums of money, so the mob decides to send his friend, the psychotic Nicholas “Nicky” Santoro (Pesci) to look out for Rothstein and their “investment”.
Whilst in Vegas, Rothstein falls for a hustler named Ginger (Stone) who despite reservations about her myriad of addictions agrees to marry her. In the meantime, Nicky has been banned from every casino in Vegas, forcing a divide between himself and Rothstein and leading him to set up his own crew and businesses in the city. Things begin to take a turn for the worse as Rothstein discovers that Ginger is running money to her former pimp and uses Nicky to beat him up. Ginger, furious with Rothstein’s behaviour seeks solace with Nicky, who also has issues with Sam also and the two begin an affair. Their betrayal is eventually revealed and causes major issues for the Kansas City mob chiefs. At this point Ginger’s drug and alcohol problems escalate until neither Sam nor Nicky want anything to do with her.
Ginger tries to steal from Rothstein but he alerts the police and the FBI arrest her leaving the bank with his money, on suspicion of aiding the mob. The FBI continues its investigation which leads them to find enough evidence to put away the mob leaders. Whilst on trial the bosses hold a meeting to determine which witnesses to terminate and a mass cull is called for which includes Nicky, his brother Dominick and Ginger. As we return to the beginning we see that Rothstein’s car explosion was planned by Nicky, but he survives due to a metal plate in his car. The movie ends with Rothstein returning to his former life in sports betting.
8. Croupier (1998) Image Entertainment.
Croupier was released in 1998 and starred English actor Clive Owen. It was initially released in cinemas but became popular once it was released on DVD and shown on television. It was Owen's first film role in the states and was released to critical acclaim which launched his career in the USA.
The film focuses around the character, Jack Manfred (Owen), who as individual with aspirations of being a successful writer is struggling to make his way in life. With no glimmer of hope lying ahead, Manfred takes a job as a croupier at a local casino as a last resort. As Manfred gets consumed by the world of casinos and gambling he starts to lose the life he initially had. His job eventually costs him his girlfriend, Marion, but she is replaced by Jani, as the lady in his life. Jani is one of the customers of the casino and Manfred seeing her outside of work is in gross breach of his employment contract as a croupier at the casino.
After a bad run at the tables, Jani is pressured by her creditors to settle the debts she has accrued. Unable to pay the money she has lost, she turns to Manfred and asks him to help make her repayments by being an insider in a casino robbery. Willing to help the woman he loves, Manfred agrees but despite everything seeing so simple things are never as easy as they appear.
9. The Colour of Money (1986) Touchstone Pictures: Martin Scorcese.
The Colour of Money was loosely based upon the book of the same title written by Walter Tevis and starred Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. It is a continuation of the character from the 1961 film “The Hustler,” which starred the late Paul Newman as pool shark Edward “Fast Eddie” Felson.
Felson begins the film as a travelling alcohol salesman who pines for his former glory days. He agrees to travel with Vincent (Cruise), a talented but egotistical player, and his girlfriend Carmen and act as a backer for the young upstart. Drawing on his old talents, Felson teaches Vincent and Carmen how to hustle other players but his growing frustrations at his protégé’s impatience lead the two to spectacularly fall out.
Now alone, Felson returns to competitive pool playing and begins to hustle once again before competing in the professional tournament circuit. After some success, Felson come face to face with his former apprentice and beats him only to discover that Vincent threw the match to win a bet he had placed on Eddie. Vincent offers Eddie a cut of the money he made from the bet, which Felson refuses and withdraws from the tournament because he is a proud man. In an attempt to restore the natural order of things, Felson challenges Vincent to a rematch with both players playing their best and at the end of the film states his intent of remaining in the pool world by stating if I don’t beat you know I will soon because, “I’m back.”
10. The Last Casino (2004) The Movie Network: Pierre Gill.
The Last Casino is a Canadian made film that, like the movie ‘21’ is based upon the book Bringing Down the House about the MIT Blackjack team and its card counting exploits and stars Charles Martin Smith and Katherine Isabelle.
Central character Doug Barnes (Smith) is a maths professor at a Canadian University but is a heavy gambling addict and despite having good mathematical ability has had a poor run on the tables and has accrued a large debt, in the range of $500,000 and the man he owes it to, a local gangster with a vicious temper, wants it back. The trouble for Barnes is that he has already been excluded from his local gaming establishment.
When the gangster comes to the University demanding his money, Barnes panics and rapidly improvises a plan which he puts to the loan shark. His idea is to train three students to count cards and hit the Blackjack tables and clean up at the casinos. Intrigued by the idea, the gangster grants him the opportunity but removes his little finger as a stark warning and reminder, what will happen if he’s unsuccessful. Luring in three brilliant, but poor, maths students with the offer of $1000 per night, he teaches them to count cards and how to beat the bank. To begin with the trio are highly successful but soon the temptation of quick and easy cash draws them away from the initial task at hand leaving Professor Barnes in potential grave danger.
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