All In: The Poker Movie
Time Out says
The questions linger: When to hold ’em, fold ’em, walk away or run? None are answered by this mildly entertaining documentary (though you’ll hear interviewee Kenny Rogers croon his signature song, “The Gambler”). Rather, All In: The Poker Movie is structured dutifully—of the same disciplined mind as today’s Borglike wave of online enthusiasts—as a serious examination of a lifestyle. Frankly, it could have used a touch more disrepute. The history of the game’s outsider popularity is unpacked, from predatory riverboat operators of the 1800s to White House obsessives (Nixon financed his first campaign from pot winnings) and Dad’s gentle game in the rec room.
But too much of All In focuses uncritically on the millions of Internet players—at one point, they’re compared to day traders—who have turned the game into a global phenomenon and something of a junk-fed joke. The rise of TV’s thrilling “hole-card cam” and its Holocaust-survivor inventor is fascinating, yet if we’re meant to feel sympathy for the stolen livelihoods of these chunky free-enterprisers (a government prohibition was passed against online poker in 2011), then why does it still sound like a bunch of whining? The opinions assembled are impressive: everyone from Rounders’ Matt Damon to former senator Al D’Amato, a poker defender. But where’s the voice of reason? It’s card playing, not a dependable income.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf