Aaron Sorkin’s distinct verbal cadences have been so recognisable in so many movies and TV shows, it’s strange to think that he’s never directed any of them himself. Rise-and-fall poker tale ‘Molly’s Game’ finally changes that. It’s a real-life story about a regular high-stakes Hollywood game. Unsurprisingly, the one-upmanship among arrogant gamblers and big cheeses fits effortlessly into Sorkin’s universe, resulting in a wild ride with smarts to burn.
We meet soon-to-be-ex-Olympic-skier Molly Bloom (a terrific Jessica Chastain) moments before a freak accident curtails her career. Following her recovery, she halts her law school plans and moves to LA, where a shady businessman (Jeremy Strong) offers an intro to his underground poker games. From there, she takes over, upgrades them and unwittingly gets mixed up with organised crime. When the FBI raids her home, she hires New York lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) to run her defence.
Despite an underbaked effort to boil Molly’s defiance down to a father-daughter story – an overindulged Sorkin instinct in ‘Jobs’ too – ‘Molly’s Game’ rips along at pace. A sharply judged edit stitches together three separate timelines, shaping Molly as a complex and razor-sharp character in a world dominated by entitled mansplainers. Forget ‘Rounders’ – here’s a poker movie to go all-in on.