Four Dogs Playing Poker
Runtime: 97 minutes/Germany 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
Director: Paul Rachman
Release Date: 2000
Cast: Olivia Williams, Balthazar Getty, Stacy Edwards, Daniel London
Award: Award for Best Debut Film at Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival
Four Dogs Playing Poker, released in 2000, is a strangely compelling story of four friends who find themselves involved in a botched heist. Under the tutelage of a man named Felix, a professional smuggler played by Tim Curry, the four friends head to Buenos Aires, where a womanizing art collector named Carlo is hosting his daughters wedding. The friends drug Carlo and steal his valuable Degas Statue, The Dancing Lady. The friends then put the statue on a boat to Manhattan Harbor and head back to Los Angeles.
It seems as though the heist has been a success, until Felix’s boss finds them and tells them that the statue is not on the boat. He tells them that if the Dancing Lady is not on the boat when it arrives in Manhattan Harbor then the friends will be subject to a million dollar fine and if they cannot pay they will all be executed, one by one. Not knowing how else to raise one million dollars, the friends take out million dollar life insurance policies on one another and decide to, secretly and randomly, choose one friend who will have to kill another friend so that they can collect the million dollar life insurance policy and the rest of the group can survive.
They will choose the killer and the victim by picking playing cards. Whoever’s card is drawn must kill or be killed. Just as in poker, this deadly game is filled with bluffing and deceit and sends the characters on a wild ride.
Four Dogs Playing Poker is reminiscent of puzzlers like The Usual Suspects. It is revealed that one of the friends is betraying the rest and clues throughout the film lead the viewer to try to figure out just who it is who is betraying his friends. One friend may decide to kill everyone in order to collect on all of the life insurance policies. Is it the paranoid druggie, the reliable girl, the seductress, or the womanizer? You’ll have to watch to find out.
However, the question comes to be, is it worth it to sit through Four Dogs Playing Poker in order to find out who is betraying their friends? Though the film has a great mix of actors, many moviegoers have said that they didn’t care about a single one of these characters. The character studies don’t go very deep and actions and reactions seem farfetched and unbelievable. The film’s all-star cast includes Olivia Williams, Tim Curry and Forest Whitaker.
However, though not everyone loved Four Dogs Playing Poker, it has still received positive reviews by some critics and viewers. While you may not care which character, if any, is going to be killed you can still enjoy the wild and fun premise and plot and the wildly random mix of actors and actresses. Just like The Usual Suspects, Four Dogs Playing Poker draws you in and keeps you guessing from start to finish.
While Four Dogs Playing Poker may be predictable at times and could have been more action-packed, less predictable and more of a psychological thriller it isn’t the worst thing ever made. It’s the kind of movie that you take out from Blockbuster when nothing else on the shelves catches your eye and, though it isn’t a work of cinematic genius, it’s sure to keep you entertained.
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