Films based around poker used to be very popular in the film industry, and led to classics like Rounders and The Sting. Recently the trend for poker films has been one of diminishing returns.
In 2014, megastar Mark Walhberg starred in crime-drama movie The Gambler which explores the life of a literature professor and how he allowed the high-stakes way of life to define him.
The movie is a remake of the 1974 original of the same name, which featured American actor James Caan, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance. The latest version, aside from getting lukewarm to mixed reviews, only managed to pull in a little over $39 million against a production budget of $25 million, according Box Office Mojo.
Another film that tried to elevate poker as a captivatingly cinematic subject matter is the 2015 action thriller Wild Card starring Jason Statham. The film tried bringing a new flare and flavor to the genre via the veteran action star, but failed miserably only raking in less than $7 million considering its $30 million budget.
The La Times wrote that Wild Card is “no royal flush, no full house, no three of a kind” and is described to be a bust as the plot is predictable at best.
However, 2017 may be the year that Hollywood bucks this trend through American crime-drama Molly’s Game.
The movie is based on true events from the memoir Molly’s Games: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker written by former U.S. figure skater Molly Bloom. Veteran screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, Moneyball, The Social Network) makes his directorial debut with American actress Jessica Chastain taking the lead role. The story follows the inner workings of underground poker where the stakes have almost no ceiling. While the movie is set for commercial release on Christmas Day of this year, many critics, award-giving bodies, and other news outlets are already raving about the film. A testament to its critical acclaim is Chastain catching the eye of the Golden Globe and receiving the nod in the Best Actress in a Drama category. Sorkin also nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for Best Screenplay. Uproxx stated that Molly’s Game is regarded as “a perfect story for Sorkin” and that it has the complete ingredients that make the story-telling tight and keep audiences engaged throughout. We shouldn’t be surprised if the movie injects new interest into the game of poker, especially given the evolving landscape of casinos and online gaming.
With the advent of mobile phones and smart gadgets, enjoying casino games is definitely on the rise. Statista revealed that the online gaming industry was worth $37.91 billion in 2015 and is projected to reach $59.79 billion come 2020. One of the key reasons for this is that online gaming is starting to replicate real life gaming more and more. Slingo Live Casino features online versions of classic cards, including poker, that include live interactions which make the games feel much closer to the actual real life casino experience. The poker scene shown in Molly’s Game was held behind closed doors. However, the modern poker scene is now much more open thanks to the advent of digital gaming.
With the help of such films like Molly’s Game putting a refreshing spin on the world of poker, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the card game’s popularity continues to rise. Let’s take Variety’s word that this movie will entertain poker enthusiasts and film fans as the Chastain-Sorkin connection is one to really look out for: “The point is, Molly’s a great character, and in the Chastain-Sorkin partnership, she’s performed every bit as forcefully as she’s written.”