The definitive casino movie sees Scorsese bring his winning formula of mobsters, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci to Vegas. Based on the true story of Frank Rosenthal and his wife Geri McKee, it tells the story of a top gambler appointed by the mob to run one of their Vegas casinos.
Pesci plays the mob enforcer assigned to make sure the mafia men get their cut, and Sharon Stone oozes trouble, glamour and sex appeal as Ginger McKenna (a character based on McKee). It’s a brilliant journey into a world of seedy, illicit and dangerous casinos that, as De Niro’s character laments in the final scenes, has been largely lost to corporate, family friendly Vegas.
Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond sees him participating in a high stakes poker (originally it was baccarat) game at the Monte Carlo Casino Royale. The actual casino scenes make up a short section of the film, but what there is shows classic, old school poker with unstirred martinis, witty quips and inscrutable looks shared across the table.
A remake of a 1960 Rat Pack film, the 2001 release sees George Clooney and friends attempt to rob 3 Vegas casinos on the night of a big boxing match. It’s a fun and clever crime caper that showcases the bright lights and glitzy attractions of Vegas.
A Brit version of the casino thriller sees Clive Owen’s cool roulette croupier get drawn into the temptations of the London casino underworld. A gritty, stylish film that made Owen’s name in the US and could have been an Oscar winner had it not been disqualified from entry on a technicality.
A 2008 film that is loosely based on the true story of blackjack card counters at MIT in the 80s. The film tells the story of Ben, a gifted maths student with a problem paying his university fees. Step in Kevin Spacey and his MIT card counting club who beat the casinos playing high stakes blackjack. The dvd features a guide to the ‘Hi-Lo’ system used by the MIT team so any budding blackjack card counters can learn the basics, although of course they’ll also need to know all about basic strategy too.
Although it didn’t get fantastic reviews at the box office, Runner Runner deserves credit for pulling gambling films into the 21st century and the massive modern phenomenon of online gaming. In a similar plot set-up to 21, Justin Timberlake is a poor but gifted maths student drawn into the world of gambling to pay his way through university. Times have changed however, and Timberlake’s character is not heading to Vegas, but making his money in his bedroom at the online casino.
Losing his money against against a cheater in an online poker game leads him to Costa Rica where Ben Affleck has built up a shady internet gambling empire. It raises questions about regulation and power in an industry where opportunities for profits are huge and traditional regulation rules don’t apply.
A Robert Altman film from 1974, California Split is a buddy movie about two men who bond over their mutual love of casino games. Elliot Gould and George Segal star as the two men chasing the ultimate score all the way to Reno. Gould’s real-life passion for gambling shines through and this is a film that conveys the fun of gambling.