I had a chance to see an advance screener of it and wrote a full review over on PokerListings, if you’re curious to see my take. I very much enjoyed the film and in fact was pleasantly surprised at how engaging it was for me.
To be honest, I thought that having kind of lived all of this stuff for the last several years, never mind teaching my “Poker in American Film and Culture” class, I half-expected to find the movie a bit tedious since I was destined to be very familiar with just about everything it was going to say.
But I was basically riveted by it, sincerely engaged by all of the connections made between poker and American culture, the overview of Rounders (covering its conception, the making of the film, its lukewarm initial reception, and its ultimate influence on a generation of poker players), the telling of Chris Moneymaker’s story, the discussion of televised poker coming into prominence, and the overview of online poker’s sudden rise and spectacular fall (at least here in the U.S.).
In my review I noted how the movie has what appear to be a couple of agendas: (1) to tell the story of poker, emphasizing its connection to American culture and history; and (2) to defend the game against its detractors, chiefly legislators who would like to limit or prohibit our playing of poker. In my review I said I thought the film did a nice job as far as telling the story of poker went, although I wasn’t too sure the film would actually change any minds among the anti-poker crowd.
Have been reading others’ reviews this week, including a number in mainstream publications like The New York Times, Variety, and so forth, and have noticed a lot of mixed or even negative response to the film’s attempt to champion poker and criticize the U.S. government’s various efforts to keep people from playing, especially online. I did a survey of several reviews for Betfair poker today, if you’d like to get a taste of what people are saying about All In.
One reviewer -- John Anderson (Variety) -- characterized the film as “preaching largely to the converted” as far as its pro-poker argument went, and he’s probably right. Others kind of echoed that sentiment while also expressing broader cynicism about romanticizing poker as some sort of emblem of the “American dream.” I understand that response, too, and can see how those who aren’t interested in poker or invested in the game might grow impatient with a film that keeps hammering away with its pro-poker message for more than 100 minutes.
But for those who are invested in the game and the “subculture” surrounding it (as another reviewer characterizes it), All In: The Poker Movie is definitely worth checking out, if you get the chance to do so. And if you do, let me know what you think, too.