DIRECTED BY JOHN DAHL
STARRING: MATT DAMON, EDWARD NORTON, JOHN TURTURRO, GRETCHEN MOL, FAMKE JANSSEN, MARTIN LANDAU AND JOHN MALKOVICH
Maybe Matt Damon’s been in too many ‘genius’ films to trigger immediate comparisons, but I simply couldn’t deny the similarities or curious coincidences with respect to character development that I could work between ‘Rounders’ and the 1997 Gus Van Sant masterpiece ‘Good Will Hunting’. The shun of intelligence citing the irrelevance of ambition takes a hairpin bend to route back to where it’s supposed to have been: The pursuit of talent at the expense of heart, for one ultimately needs to be doing what he’s been written out for, or so says Professor Petrovsky (Martin Landau). And Mike McDermott finds no reason to not follow these words of his. But the surprising thing is that I was able to draw a parallel as much as I was able to separate this film from ‘Good Will Hunting’, with a swap of places between talent and romantic attraction along with a costume change, Vegas style.
But ‘Rounders’ is in no way as profoundly psychological, although it could match up with the level of conceptual clarity. However, I cannot say the same about that of emotion, where I found the confusion to be inadequately explained. I, for one, couldn’t decide on whether Mike plays cards because he aspires for it, or if he sees himself to be an indisputable best (both of which appears in moments split by time) with a need to establish the same to a world that’s unaware. But I could still strongly say that playing cards is what he has to be doing, because he simply isn’t cut-out for anything else, and that’s a level of clarity for one. If Will Hunting is a super-computer, Mike could very well be the ace poker-player software that no one could beat. I think that pretty much sums it up.
I liked how there always is emotional attachment, except that it is found sacrificed for the sake of personal betterment. Now that at least is a choice, as opposed to an irreconcilable circumstance. There’s an inability to relate to each other, but there definitely is a lot of fondness in the picture and I was amazed at that, it definitely left a positive mark. An equal negative would be the brash ‘Russian’ Teddy KGB (a disappointing John Malkovich) who makes fun of himself, trying not to say worse. And there’s the beloved Worm (Edward Norton) who shares an amazing chemistry with Mike, but still couldn’t stop himself from fading into a predictable stereotype, speaking of which I should say this. ‘Rounders’ is definitely not the kind of film that explores the concept of gambling with socio-economic insight, but one that merely holds it in the middle of the plot-construction, accessorizes it and builds an ‘against the odds’ victory not uncharacteristic of trend (the days of ‘Jerry Maguire’), where the contest isn’t the sport in itself but the extrapolation of it. A distinctly mundane venture that banks on the sincere reflection of smartness that, safely, none other than Damon could convincingly portray.
It is said that there’s a sequel in development. I find it hard to imagine what it could turn out to be about, for the idea of a fed-up, older Mike who ultimately reverts back to what he left in the first place (‘love’) sounds excessive. As much as there was the thrill of watching a couple of young ones making it big playing the big guys’ game, the emotions involved in course of time would become too cumbersome that I only wish against it at this point of time.