Film Review: The Poker Club (2009)

SYNOPSIS:

Four poker buddies end up with a house full of problems when an armed intruder interrupts their weekly card game. Stabbing him and tying him up was one thing, but they shouldn’t have bashed his skull in with a baseball bat. Now, with an accidental death on their hands, they’ve got to hide the body … and keep hoping that the burglar didn’t bring company. Johnathon Schaech, Johnny Messner, Loren Dean and Michael Risley star.

REVIEW:

Written by: Richard Chizmar & Johnathon Schaech; based on the novel by Ed Gorman
Directed by: Tim McCann
Starring: Johnathon Schaech, Johnny Messner, Loren Dean, Michael Risley, Lori Heuring

QUICK FIX:

Every Monday night for the last 15 years, Aaron and his three bestest friends have gotten together for the weekly poker game. But when the guys accidentally kill a burglar who has broken into Aaron’s house during the game and they all agree to dispose of the body and carry the secret with them to their graves, someone decides to step up and try to help them into their graves a little earlier than they’d planned. Throw in the obligatory tensions within the group and a touch of “did he, did she, or both?” infidelity/adultery goodness, and the sh*t hits the fan in a downward spiral of revenge and treachery faster than you can say “I know what you did last summer in the poker club.”

RAMBLINGS:

Anyone who knows me even a little bit right now knows that both VERY BAD THINGS and SUICIDE KINGS are in my top 25 favorite movies of the last 15 years. I’m a sucker for the whole “we accidentally f*cked up, but we’re stupid and are going to f*ck things up even worse before we’re done instead of manning up and facing the problem head on” type of movies. Hell, who’s to say that when confronted with a situation like that that even I wouldn’t have a momentary lapse of reason and try to get creative if it meant getting out of being shipped off to the big house and not seeing my family for 20 years or so? Especially if there’s more than one idiot involved in the scenario…as we all know from both high school and watching these types of movies, peer pressure is a huge, toothy bitch.

Johnathon Schaech is one of those guys that even though I may love some of his movies (THE DOOM GENERATION, MUMMY AN’ THE ARMADILLO) and turn right around and hate some of his others (ROAD HOUSE 2: LAST CALL, PROM NIGHT remake) so venomously that I want to punch through the TV and use the DVD for target practice, I’ve always found him to be a consistently great actor. Call me crazy (few haven’t), but to me he’s the indie version of Billy Zane, which to me is a great thing. He also seems to have a genuine love for our beloved horror genre, and the fact that through the last few years he’s branched out into writing or co-writing many of his starring vehicles only adds to my admiration of him. And given the fact that here he’s got the backup of talents such as Johnny Messner, Loren Dean, and the always hot Lori Heuring, plus others, that makes for a pretty kickass ensemble here.

Director McCann fooled me here – given the look and feel of the intro and the first half hour or so of the flick, I really thought this was a made-for-TV movie of the week. Then some bloody, non-kid friendly killings started happening, and my interest was peaked even more. I haven’t read Ed Gorman’s source novel, but I think it might be worth picking up and comparing down the road one of these days. I’m looking forward to seeing what McCann has up his sleeve for his next directorial effort.

LAST WORDS:

What we have here is a pretty slick little revenge/whodunit type of movie, complete with otherwise intelligent characters doing stupid things in the name of pressure and panic that can only eventually tear them apart, if any of them live to see the light of day, which like I said earlier always reminds me of personal favorites like VERY BAD THINGS. In my opinion THE POKER CLUB stands as many of the leads’ finest work in years. I did really dig it and think it’s definitely worth checking out.

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