Cinema and casino games have more in common than you may think. Of course, both are made for entertainment, but it goes further than that. Movies, and especially Western movies follow rules to create drama, tension, and engagement. It’s the same with casinos and the games they offer. If you enjoy online casinos, going through a casino overview will show you many of them also have branded games.
Today, we’ll look at casino movies and other gambling-related movies to show how casino games are perfect to build movies around.
How Movies Show Gambling
There are scenes in movies that show characters playing casino games, usually in Las Vegas due to the city’s iconic status. Yet, it’s not always about the location. There are several iconic examples of movies with casino scenes that you can enjoy regardless of the places shown. It’s all about the directing of the movie. You’ll find a list of such movies below.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – Losing it All
For our first example, we’ll turn to the East End of London for a film many probably forgot, that is directed by Guy Ritchie. In Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, we follow Eddy and his group of friends who are petty criminals. Eddy is also a poker lover and finds himself in a tricky situation.
The film’s climax is a poker game between Eddy and the main bad guy, a powerful gangster. The poker scene is iconic and perfectly encapsulates the feeling of playing the game. It uses thriller codes, with close-ups on the characters, and shots of the bad guy’s eyes dilating like a shark smelling blood when he realizes he’s got the upper hand. There are also shots of other players around the table reacting, viewed from the hero’s perspective. The scene is highly immersive and creates a similar feeling to what you may have experienced in a card game.
However, the notable point of the scene is when Eddy accepts to get a loan and the gangster has him in his trap. He then shows his hand in a dramatic way. Every card revealed is like a bullet that is shot at the main protagonist as he understands what’s happening,.And then we get amazing compensated dolly shots on his face with a blurry effect which conveys the uneasiness of the character, just to come to a sudden halt when the last card is shown.
Rounders – Finding the Tell
Rounders, the 1998 film directed by John Dahl, has a final poker scene which is the opposite of what we’ve seen in the Guy Ritchie film. This time, it’s the underdog played by Matt Damon, who is a genius at poker and topples the notorious Russian gangster played by John Malkovich. The directing is less explosive because Ritchie has a background directing music videos; Dahl doesn’t.
However, the movie captures an essential aspect of any poker game: finding another player’s tell. Malkovich’s character gets cocky during the scene, and to celebrate what he thinks is going to be an early victory, he opens up an Oreo cookie and eats it in a particular way. This prompts Matt Damon’s character to fold and angers our “cookie monster.” The screenplay focuses a lot more on inserts (close-up shots of small elements) to make us understand what’s going on without having the characters spell it out unnaturally. So, we get close-ups of the cards, the chips when they’re placed, and the cookie eating.
This scene is remarkable because even someone without any prior poker experience or knowledge of the rules can follow what’s happening. It’s also thanks to the flawless interpretation of two talented actors.
Ocean’s Thirteen – Winning Scene
The Ocean’s series isn’t exactly about casino games, but the films are about casino heists, and the masterful direction of Steven Soderbergh has redefined the genre. Ocean’s Thirteen shows in a crafty scene how the management of a land-based casino can go into panic mode, but it also has ways to show the games that are exciting.
In this film, every casino scene has this red and gold tint to it, giving an aura of luxury to the place, which is what land-based casinos try to create. The tables are crowded, and the ambience is electrifying, to say the least. The scene shines because of the almost punk rhythm of the editing. It truly kicks off with a shot of a ball landing in slow motion on a roulette cell, with incredible sound design conveying the impact of the result.
This kicks off excitement as the protagonists rig all the machines and games to let people win. We get a succession of close-ups of cards and dice, intercut with people cheering on realizing they’ve won. It’s all accompanied by what is now a cliché heist film music (because of these films).
The Buildup of Tension is the Basis of Films and Casino Games
The redline throughout this article has been about how films build up the tension to engage audiences. Casino games do it too, and that’s why both mediums work well together. However, movies can use similar structures even when the subject has nothing to do with gambling.
The Russian roulette scene from The Deer Hunter is a good example, but there are others. The final Mexican Standoff of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly can be seen as a poker game. Each character has a different end. It builds tension similar to the now famous eye shots, and it presents the same risks and rewards mechanics.
So, next time you watch a movie, try to identify these shots or screenplay tricks. They only make the experience more exciting.