It’s not “Rounders 2,” but poker players have a good reason to visit the movie theaters today.
Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s film “Molly’s Game” opened in most large cities in the U.S. on Christmas day, with a full nationwide rollout set for Jan. 5. His highly-anticipated directorial debut was originally scheduled to hit theaters on Thanksgiving, but after a strong showing at the Toronto International Film Festival this fall, it was moved to the end of year, according to Deadline.
The two hour and twenty minute long movie has so far received a respectable 7.3/10 rating on IMDB after 1,700 reviews and an 84 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. The film’s IMDB rating is the same as the 1998 cult classic Rounders (129,000 reviews), but we’ll see if Molly’s Game has the same staying power as the film credited with helping ignite the 2000s poker boom.
The film stars Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba, and Sorkin called their chemistry “electric.” Chastain plays former high-stakes poker organizer Molly Bloom, dubbed the “Poker Princess.” Bloom, a former Olympic-class skier, was making as much as $50,000 a night for setting up exclusive underground games that catered to real-life movie stars and wealthy businessmen.
She was indicted by the federal government for involvement in a far-reaching gambling ring that had ties to the Russian mob, and that’s where her co-star comes in. Elba plays Bloom’s lawyer in the film that also features the likes of Kevin Costner and Michael Cera. Celebrities who played in the real-life Bloom-run games in L.A. or New York included Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Toby Maguire. None of them appeared in Molly’s Game.
As everyone knows, Damon, a poker enthusiast, was the star of Rounders.
Sorkin also wrote the script, based off of Bloom’s 2014 memoir, which came out after she was sentenced to probation. She had faced up to five years in prison. The illegal gambling case ensnared more than 30 people, including World Poker Tour champion Vadim Trincher who received five years behind bars. The Obama FBI tapped his phone at his $5 million Trump Tower condo.
Despite being centered on the game of poker, Sorkin said earlier this year that Molly’s Game isn’t actually about cards. However, the public and the poker community will be the judge of that.
“[I]f you’re a poker player, you’ll enjoy the poker scenes — but it’s not a poker movie,” Sorkin said. “No, we never care who wins or loses a game. The movie is about her and what happened to her. And particularly two relationships in her life: the relationship she has with her criminal lawyer, played by Idris Elba, and her relationship with her father, Kevin Costner.”
At least one mainstream reviewer wasn’t convinced regarding Sorkin’s take on his own film.
“It’s an intriguing look into a secret world […] but Sorkin’s directorial debut never quite makes the leap from great poker movie to great movie,” said Empire’s Helen O’Hara.
The film had a budget of $30 million, a little more than double the budget for Rounders.