Rounders (1998)

dir. John Dahl. Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) is a law student and reformed poker player. When old school pal, Worm (Edward Norton) gets out of jail owing money to a loan shark, Mike gets back into high stakes poker to try settle things. Some great scenes, but ultimately unsatisfying in the way the messy plot unfolds. Some standout performances, with Martin Landau (Bela Lugosi in ED WOOD (1994)) as Mike’s understanding law professor, and John Malkovich as the gambling boss with the terrible, but amusing Russian accent. The fabulous Famke Janssen (Xenia Onatopp in GOLDENEYE (1995)) has a small role that feels like it should be more important, but it evaporates like so many character arcs. Early on it feels like the core of the film is about the friendship between Mike and Worm, but it’s never paid off satisfactorily – no character seem to go through any change, and the major moments are not suspenseful or exhilarating. Maybe you have to be a real poker fan to fully get this film.

The Last Seduction (1994)

dir. John Dahl. Surprising, intricate 1990s film noir. The jazzy soundtrack suits the movie perfectly. Linda Fiorentino is the perfect seductive villain/anti-hero, it’s so much fun watching her machinations. She’s a charming sociopath, and her victims are such flawed abusive jerks that you never feel too bad about the carnage. Bill Pullman is just barely slimy enough for his role, he still seems like a nice guy underneath.