Russell Crowe writes, directs and stars in this Aussie flic about a mysterious billionaire who decides to gather his childhood buddies for a high-stake poker game in his mansion. Nevertheless, despite the movie’s premise and title, there isn’t much genuine poker played or mentioned in the movie. Instead, it reads like a disjointed tale that makes passing allusions to kinship, honour, and greed but never truly takes flight.
Russell Crowe puts himself at the center stage here as his main character, Jake, dominates the larger part of the film’s mercifully short running time of just slightly over one and a half hours. The first half of the film is filled with confusion as we follow Jake through a series of scenes that seem to have no connection to one another, and new characters are introduced. Much of the dialogue is slurred with heavy Australian accent, riddled with obscenities, and of scant substance, making it difficult to follow the plot’s deeper meanings. When the script tries to be preachy about life and ideals, it is at its poorest. These sound like fortune-cookie-style messages. Things begin to finally to pick up towards the latter half when the stage shifts focus on the gathering. By this time, it all feels a little too little and too late as the audience is already alienated by then.
Poker Face’s set designs, setting, and some amazing camera work may be the only redeemable qualities I was able to find in it. Russell Crowe uses the camera to show off his artistic side as the movie’s director. He depicts an Australia that is breathtaking to behold, whether it be in the outback, along the shore, or in Sydney, which has never appeared more incredibly glitzy and contemporary. As he appears to take pleasure in showcasing pricey Rolex watches, costly cars, and certain apartments and real estate with breath-taking interiors and outside vistas, at times the movie had the appearance of being some sort of TV commercial. Additionally, he maintains a close-up, tight camera viewpoint on the faces of his performers, which enhances the performances.
However, I can’t ultimately recommend Poker Face because it just seems forgettable. It was not enjoyable to watch, and I kept checking the time to see when the movie would stop. With Russell playing various roles in its production and a respectable ensemble that includes Liam Hemsworth, it is clear that this was a labour of passion for him. In fact, he appears healthier, less bloated, and more energetic than in his previous recent on-screen appearances (Unhinged, Thor Love and Thunder). Unfortunately, despite all of this enthusiasm, the movie was just not good enough.