Poker Movie Review: ‘Poker Face’ Screenplay is an Incoherent Mess

Poker Face (2022), the newest poker-ish themed movie starring Russell Crowe, is now available on Amazon Prime ($5.99 to rent), Vudu, and DVD, but there are certainly better ways to spend your money, including but not limited to lighting it on fire.

Brian Koppelman can breathe a sigh of relief knowing his 1998 flick, Rounders, will remain in its rightful position as the nearly universally accepted best poker movie ever.

Poker Face’s Confusing Plot

Poker Face, an Australian-American thriller, has a number of confusing moments and a plot that doesn’t coherently work together. It almost seemed like someone deleted filmed scenes and the production team was forced to just slop something together in time for the expected release date.

Take, for example, a scene at an art gallery in which the main character Jake Foley (Crowe) is approached by a woman who is fascinated with his apparent interest in rare art. She asks for permission to paint a portrait of him and records a brief interview with Jake to get some insight into who he is.

“It was one of only a few early scenes that had much relevance to the movie as a whole.”

At the time in the movie, about 20 minutes into a slow-developing flick that wasn’t really going anywhere, it seemed as if this unidentified woman was about to become an important character. Perhaps a love interest for Jake or maybe even a con artist attempting to get her hands on the billions Jake made from the online poker site he created and the tech company he’d eventually build. Instead, she didn’t appear again in the movie until literally the last minute.

That scene did, however, introduce to viewers Jake’s passion for expensive art, which comes into play later in the film. But it was one of only a few early scenes that had much relevance to the movie as a whole.

Poker Face

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Not Much Poker

If you were expecting an actual poker movie, Poker Face will disappoint. Actually, it will likely disappoint regardless of your expectations. After about 40 minutes of confusing or just plain irrelevant dialogue, Jake invites four of his childhood friends to a snazzy retreat where they’ll play a game of no-limit Texas hold’em with a $5 million buy-in winner-take-all format ($25 million).

Poker Face

This is where the movie goes from confusing to “WTF am I even watching” status. One of the players in the game is Michael, played by Liam Hemsworth, who is 26 years younger than Crowe, yet they’re supposed to be childhood friends.

The game eventually begins and lasts all of one hand, in which two players with jack-ten are all in on the turn with the nut straight, but both have a redraw to a flush. The river bricks and the pot is anti-climactically chopped.

So as to not spoil the ending, for the two or three of you who are still interested in watching Poker Face, we’ll leave out the specifics of what transpires following the brief poker game. But some armed robbers bust into the home, steal Jake’s rare art collection and a good old-fashioned stand-off ensues.

For what it’s worth, the production quality of Poker Face was solid. Crowe, who co-wrote and directed the movie, has starred in many Blockbuster flicks. But this was no Gladiator by any stretch of the imagination. It wasn’t even The Mummy.

On a positive note, Poker Face is a quick film — 129 minutes — not long enough to ruin your entire evening.