Susan Granger’s review of “All In – The Poker Movie” (4th Row Films)
Celebrating the worldwide poker renaissance, transitioning as a subculture from suburban living rooms to lavish Las Vegas casinos, writer/producer Doug Tirola’s comprehensive narrative explains how the risk-taking game has become a favorite target for politicians who have tried to cut off the ability for millions to play and for many to make a living.
Playing poker has become an integral part of our mainstream culture, satisfying our desire to play and to win, even if we don’t understand the high-stakes intricacies of No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em. Poker crosses every social barrier – economics, gender, age, race and religion. Its megamillion popularity has grown to include people who may never have picked up a deck of cards before but enjoy watching on TV and participating on the many Internet sites.
Tirola artfully interweaves archival footage and movie/TV references with commentaries from celebrities like Matt Damon (“Rounders”), screenwriter Brian Koppelman, singer Kenny Rogers, NPR’s Ira Glass, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, World Poker Tour creator Steve Lipscomb and sportswriters Frank Deford and Bert Sugar, among others, with poker’s most notable card slingers like Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston, David Negreanu and Chris Moneymaker, whom Tirola heralds a “The Horatio Alger of Poker,” since he parlayed a small investment of $40 into $2.5 million with his partner, ironically named David Gamble. Where else in life can you get odds like that?
According to Tirola (“Making the Boys”), what propelled the expansion of poker in the past decade is the use of hold-card cameras on the Travel Channel’s “World Poker Tour.” Singularly, this device, invented by Henry Orenstein, has turned poker into the most popular spectator sport. Think of it: football, baseball, soccer and basketball have their seasons but poker is on every night, 24/7, numerically outdrawing everything else.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “All In – The Poker Movie” is an intriguing 7, documenting another way to chase the American Dream.