‘Poker face’ should be studied in all film universities: it is a master lesson in how a producer should be able to tell a star director “This isn’t working”. And it is that Russell Crowe’s tape is one of the most incredible feature films of recent years. Note: “incredible” not as a positive term, but as a descriptive one. You cannot believe that what you are seeing is happening in front of you.
A poker player of disasters
For a film that bases its promotion and hallmarks on poker, in ‘Poker face’ there is surprisingly very little card play. What’s more: Russell Crowe is scared of his own argument based on a friendly game full of moral decisions, and instead of playing a good game wisely decides to take a couple of extra turns exercising the art of the lurch and turning the tape into something impossible to see seriously.
Let’s start from the fact that Russell Crowe, in his sixties, has decided to put Liam Hemsworth, 32, as the interpreter of one of his great childhood friends. There is no explanation: a millionaire gathers his childhood friends to see how life has been for them now that they are approaching maturity, and among them there is a pipiolo. It is just a sample of the absolute impunity that the actor and director has had for make the most absurd decisions in a plot that has neither head nor tail.
At the beginning of the film, we are introduced to the different friends of Jake, the character played by Crowe, and it is dropped that each of them has a secret. But The film doesn’t care too much about closing these plots either. and in the end the mysteries are falling throughout the footage without having much grounds, reaching an ending that should need a lot of rewrites to be able to be filmed. However, they have pulled with it, hoping for the benevolence of a public that -I assure you- will not be up for the job.
Even if the studies on current viewers are right and really we can’t hold the attention for long, this film has taken the mantra of trying not to be boring under any circumstances too seriously. What’s more, it would almost be said that he suffers from TikTok syndrome: Don’t you like what you’re seeing? Don’t worry, very soon we will change characters, rhythm, genre and even history.
Throughout the film we will have adolescent adventures in the style of ‘Count on me’, reunions, secrets, friendships, moral problems, action, adventure, robberies and even forbidden romancesAll this in just one hour and twenty minutes. Nobody knows what ‘Poker face’ wants to say (not even herself) and that’s why it’s hard for her to focus. Without a defined genre, plot or tone, it’s more like an audiovisual merry-go-round than to a proper movie.
As an example, a button: after a prologue to the summer in which friends learned to play poker, we see a millionaire going to a spiritual retreat to train body and soul and get a truth serum that in a small quantity it disinhibits but with a couple of more drops it can kill. Later, the man organizes a gathering of friends because he is dying and wants everyone to feel his painSo he sets them up with a poker game to gamble their money on, but he also sticks the truth serum he got earlier into them. By the time the movie gets underway, this plot gibberish has already knocked us out.
full of nothing
Not everything is negative: there are ten or fifteen minutes in the third act where he regains interest, despite the fact that it does not offer any surprises and it is already too late. As an action movie it has a certain flair to it, and Crowe handles himself beautifully as a man alone in the face of danger. Not that it stands out at all in the current film maelstrom, but compared to the rest of the film it is ‘Citizen Kane’: at least the script is focused, there is an objective and a stable tone.
Sadly, if the best thing that can be said about a movie is “for ten minutes the script is centered”, you can already guess that the rest of the footage is not exactly an enduring work of art. ‘Poker face’ tries to surprise at all costs and bets everything on the turn, without realizing that in order to surprise the viewer, they must first believe, at least, that the characters they see on the screen are real. Without that minimum whatever happens to them is not going to arouse any kind of sensation or emotion.
It’s funny, because Crowe is not new as a director (his are the acceptable ‘The water teacher’ and ‘Texas’), but as a screenwriter. And it shows: he needed, at the very least, an experienced partner to guide him so that the film would not be the Hindenburg disaster that it is. A slow-motion death in which every narrative decision made is the worst possible, with twists that only get tangled up in themselves and clumsy in their execution. Of course, this time he hasn’t been dealt good cards and he doesn’t know what to do with his hand, so he has decided to throw them into the air in the hope that a miracle will happen. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t happen.