Whether you’re on Netflix, Hulu, or just go to the movies sometimes, you won’t have to look hard to find a film that revolves around gambling. Some of these films are Oscar winners while others are regularly counted among the top 100 best films of all time.
Whether you’re into gambling or casinos or not, this particular genre of film has won popularity among all sorts of people, and not just in America, but around the world. While there are a lot of gambling films out there that are spoken highly of among critics, too many are just examples of people trying to jump on the bandwagon and ride the coattails of other great works to success.
The problem is usually exactly what you expect to find with bad films—the actors aren’t the right actors for the film (or are just plain bad), the script is written poorly, and the director really didn’t know what they were doing.
Or who knows, maybe everything was great until the editors took over, and they’re the ones to blame.
It probably comes as no surprise to you to learn that jumping on the bandwagon doesn’t always work. Despite the world’s obsession with gambling movies, there are more than a few that just plain suck.
I’m going to go over three of what audience and critics call the worst gambling movies of all time, though to be honest, there are probably plenty other gambling films out there that are even worse and never made it past the review stage.
This movie is definitely worth being on this list. To say that Deal is not a really good movie is probably being way too nice. IMDb rated Deal at a weak 5.4/10 stars.
The acting is subpar, and the script itself is just lacking. Tommy Vinson (Burt Reynolds), a former cardshark, had given up poker years ago after his marriage was put on the line and his wife threatened to leave him. After meeting Alex Stillman (Bret Harrison), Tommy inevitably gets back into the game.
Alex, a former law school graduate, is discontent working at his father’s firm as a junior clerk while also showing signs of being a great, pro-tournament-level poker player. Alex is still a rookie, up-and-coming poker player who has a lot of growing to do. Tommy offers to be Alex’s coach and proposes a deal: he will pay entry fees for poker tournaments as long as Alex follows Tommy’s instructions exactly.
Alex teaches Tommy all kinds of tricks, including how to cheat, and all is well until it isn’t.
Before I go into why this movie stinks, let me just note that Deal received a whopping 3%. Burt Reynolds has been called the greatest hollywood actor of the 70s and 80s, but he left the audience in the 2000s with a performance that was forgettable.
From the New York Times: “Reynolds doesn’t convey any of the lightning bolt insouciance that made him arguably the greatest movie star of the 70s and 80s (really) but rather just stands there.”
From ReelViews, “The film has more of a checklist of cliches than an actual script and, when it comes to the cast, director Gil Cates Jr. is scraping the bottom of the barrel.” One credit went on to compare Deal to an episode of the Teletubbies, with Teletubbies coming out on top.
Deal just kind of feels like a mess. It’s actually really sad when you think about it. You have one of the greatest actors ever just flopping in his old age. It makes you wonder if he was just the kind of person who was only able to play a defined ranged and couldn’t work his way out of that, or if it was just a bad script and bad directing. Who knows, but it’s definitely not a film I would recommend wasting your time on.
When you have epic films out there like Casino or Ocean’s Eleven or 21, there’s no point in watching something like this.
2- Lucky You
Moving on with our list of best gambling movies of all time, next we have a film starring Drew Barrymore and Eric Bana called Lucky You. Chuck Heever (Eric Bana), a main character of the film, is someone that goes all out in the world of high-stakes poker. However, that is not the case when it comes to other areas of his life.
He seems to be rigid and closed off in his personal relationships, avoiding emotional commitments or long-term expectations. Chuck wants to play in the 2003 World Series of Poker and win over a singer from Bakersfield named Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore) but first has to deal with a significant obstacle: his huge resentment towards his father, L.C. Cheever.
Cheever is a gambling legend and walked out on Chuck and his Mother at a young age. The movie incorporates a kind of father-and-son rivalry. We watch the 2 through the film as they prepare for a final showdown at the poker table. Chuck learns valuable lessons about life through the game of poker, and vice versa.
The movie tries to sell the idea that the way a player plays at the card table is a lot like how they live their life. After watching the film, I feel like a huge thing the film lacked was passion and energy. A lot of the audience and critic reviews claim that the film was probably 2 hours longer than it needed to be—saying that all we needed was fifteen minutes—and the rest was just a long, drawn out bore.
From the Arizona Republic, “This movie has so little to it that you begin to understand why they packed it with so much poker: They had to put something on the screen. But even die-hard Hold ‘Em fans will leave wishing for more.”
That was something I noticed—well it’s impossible not to. Way too much time is spent just watching the characters play poker, and nothing else is really happening. I forgot at some times what was really going on due to being so bored during some of the drawn out scenes.
I wasn’t surprised when I went back to rottentomatoes and saw the generous 38%. We’ve definitely got another film that’s not gonna make it on the top 5 best casino movies lists.
3- 3000 Miles to Graceland
The plot for 3000 Miles to Graceland takes place in Las Vegas during International Elvis Week. The strip is completely packed by a herd of men who are dressed up as a wannabe version of “The King.” Amongst all of the sideburns and jumpsuits, five of the impersonators are toting heavy weaponry in their guitar cases.
In 3000 Miles to Graceland, we meet Thomas J Murphy (Kevin Costner) and Michael Zane (Kurt Russel) , two criminal-minded tough guys that lead a gang of five, using the Elvis Impersonation as a cover to commit robbery—their agenda is to completely gut the Riviera Casino.
When I say gut, I mean that term in a literal way. These guys don’t just use the weapons to scare, but instead, left a pretty big body count once they were able to leave the Riviera with $3.2 million.
After losing guys during the heist, the main characters decide to split the winnings and start laundering the money. This powerhouse cast includes 2 of the best (and my personal favorite) actors of all time: Kurt Russel and Kevin Costner.
I’ll also give credit to whoever made the trailer for this film. I saw it in a theater, and I remember saying out loud that I was going to see it. The sad reality is that this film received 14% on rotten tomatoes. I think so much of this is due to the over-the-top filler that takes up so much of it.
There are a lot of loud gunshots, a lot of blood, a lot of death, so much of this stuff to the point that you start forgetting what the movie is really about. Reading the top critic reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, a bulk of the negativity aligns perfectly with what I am saying—too much filler.
Ultimately I think this movie ended up being one of those films where 2 big actions stars got to have a lot of fun with a terrific budget, but ultimately ended up putting out a dud because either the script just didn’t have what it takes to push the story to anything interesting beyond bloodshed or that the editing couldn’t capture the fun that was being had by these 2 guys.
Don’t get me wrong—I think the premise was a great idea, especially given how interesting the trailer was. I found it so enticing and was ready for a great action flick, but it just got bogged down in the unnecessary gore.
If you’re trying to find a great newer movie about gambling, this is one to skip.
I’m sure you can think of a ton more awful gambling movies that should go on this list. If there’s anything I left out, let me know in the comments.