Thoroughly predictable, but still enjoyable, Vince Van Patten’s slightly-autobiographical film 7 Days to Vegas is not a bad way to pass an evening. Released in 2019, Van Patten, his younger brother, James, and a cast featuring Ross McCall (White Collar), Willie Garson (Fever Pitch), Jennifer Tilly, and James Kyson (Heroes) tell the story of one man’s attempt to walk from Los Angeles to Vegas in just seven days.
It’s a bit hard to categorize this film. It’s definitely a comedy with elements of a heist movie and almost no poker at all. It does go into the world of prop betting, the crazy things guys do when they get together, and how big money can ruin nice things. Mainly, though, it’s kind of a feel-good movie.
If that sounds like the kind of film you’d like to watch, keep reading. I’ve got a brief plot synopsis and a rundown of what worked and what didn’t. If you don’t want to read ahead, just keep in mind that the good outweighs the bad, and its definitely worth spending $5 to watch the movie online.
Oh, and before I forget, this movie is not safe for work or children in any way. That surprised me for some reason, so I thought I would pass it on.
The movie starts off by letting us know that the events in this movie are inspired by true events and it seems like some of the things in the movie really did happen. Either way, what’s real and what isn’t is largely secondary to a movie that starts off with a bang then keeps on going.
Meet Duke Madson (Van Patten), a washed up actor who is unable to book movie parts or even late night infomercials. What he can do, though, is play poker for real money which he does with his degenerate friends.
Eventually, these friendly games of poker turn into much larger games of poker and Duke makes enough to feed his family, pay his bills, etc. However, it’s not the financial security that draws him into these games, it’s the prop bets. He makes and loses thousands of dollars watching his friends do dumb things.
It’s all very macho and shows typical behavior that guys do when they’re drinking together. Eventually, the games move from his house to more classic venues (in a sort of Molly’s Game-esque kind of way). This attracts larger players (again, like Molly’s Game) including Sebastien (McCall) who turns out to be a hustler, conman, and jerk along with rich movie-producer guy.
Long story short, and to leave you with something to watch, Madsen and his brother Carl lose a lot of money to a Ponzi scheme and, at the same time, individually run afoul of Sebastien. Things come to a head when their mutual friend Sandor dies and leaves Madsen a million dollars.
Madsen’s wife desperately wants him to take that money and use it to get the family out of debt, because they’re in danger of losing their house. Instead, Madsen bets he can walk to Las Vegas from Los Angeles in seven days. Sebastien, ready to take that million dolllars, gives Madsen five-to-one odds that it can’t be done.
The rest of the movie is walking and answering the question of whether Madsen can, in fact, walk 40 miles per day in the heat to get to Vegas and earn his family’s financial freedom.
Surprisingly, there’s a lot of good in this movie. It definitely has the feel of a “guy movie” and does a good job of showing how silly dudes can be when they get together. The movie offers a comforting environment to men and the women who love them (or put up with them anyway).
You can tell from World Poker Tour broadcasts that Van Patten has some charisma. Also, after consulting his IMDb profile, he does have a number of acting credits to his name that Duke Madsen would envy (Baywatch, The Young and the Restless, Camp Fear, etc.) Plus, the fact that he’s playing a version of himself really allows him to shine in the role.
McCall seems to be having a lot of fun playing the villain with the British accent. Also, Don Stark (That ‘70s Show) is awesome as the temper-challenged could-be mobster Angry Jim.
The movie is also pretty funny when it needs to be, but doesn’t mind showing some real pathos from Van Patten that you might not think he would have if you only knew him as a poker announcer.
Ultimately, though, the thing I found the most interesting about the movie was that, after watching it and having a good laugh, I assumed I would put the movie up and never watch it again. The next day, I thought to myself, “I should watch 7 Days to Vegas again.” So, it definitely has that going for it.
Perhaps my biggest complaint about the movie was the lack of poker in it. Given that I knew Van Patten primarily from his poker announcing and they advertised it during WPT broadcasts, I assumed there’d be more card playing in it. This is not Rounders in which we get some idea about the psychology of players at the table and see poker action.
Also, from a movie reviewing standpoint, the movie is paced a little oddly. It’s only 90 minutes and that actually felt just a little long. It’s also almost equally divided into two halves, that if I recall correctly, were about 45 min each. There was everything leading up to the walk and the walk. Unfortunately, the walk feels a little long.
This movie really shines when Van Patten is interacting with his friends. You don’t get a lot of that when he is out walking by himself and what starts as kind of a happy-go-lucky film about the stupidity of guys playing poker turns into a man-versus-himself style film about overcoming hardship.
I understood that walking to Sin City was going to be hard. I don’t know that I needed 45 minutes of that in exclusion of some of the other interesting things that could have been going on with some of the characters or even across the world.
Last, while the cast was good, there were some very forgettable characters. One person in particular, Squeeze (Joseph Siprut) seemed to appear and disappear at random. I’m still not sure what his role was in the movie other than to shake hands.
Overall, that feels like harsh criticism for a movie that frankly may not deserve it. There’s an uplifting message in the walk part, but it’s a little muted against some of the movies’ other themes and performances. Again, not that the movie wasn’t good, it does bear understanding that this isn’t a perfect film and script.
At the end of the day, 7 Days to Vegas was a shockingly good movie. My fear upon hearing about it was that it would be a low budget, walking infomercial for Van Patten and the World Poker Tour. Fortunately, the movie turned out to be an enjoyable romp through the lives of fictitious poker players.
While the movie clearly had its flaws, they weren’t nearly as obvious as they could have been given my worst fears on the subject. Instead, Director Eric Balfour gives us a neat look into these men’s lives told without any real strikes against it. In fact, if Van Patten decides to make another poker movie, I would be happy to give it a chance. Maybe a Rounders remake with him and McCall as Damon and Norton?
Nah, probably not! But we can dream.
One last, sad note. This was movie was Aron Eisenburg’s last film before he passed. He rose to prominence in Deep Space Nine and left this world having to play Peanut, a man small in stature who provided big laughs. All in all, a fitting tribute to the actor.