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An unexpected guest visits an underworld poker game and leaves a better man.
by Erik Sean McGiven on Aug 05, 2010
An unexpected guest drops in on an underworld poker game and
leaves a better man.
This dark neo-noir comedy begins with an ear shattering
sound of a passing freight train; its lights flashing through the windows. It's a solid beginning to a most likable
film about faith and the game of poker.
Three card sharpies receive word that the Son of God is in town and has
been taking down the best. When Jesus
arrives in a portrait-like entrance we expect parables and miracles. Instead we get a cynical, dejected mortal who
has lost faith in humanity.
He sits down and plays beating the hell out of everyone at
the table. He lays down one straight
flush after another resulting in two of the players having to tap out. Then it's only Jesus and The Man, the best
card player this side of the Mason-Dixon Line. The stakes double then raise rapidly. The tension mounts, as the Son of God must
decide whether to bet more or fold.
Could The Man be bluffing? Maybe,
maybe not. After a prolonged pause Jesus
finally decides to fold. Game over; The
Man wins. But the loser leaves with his
faith in humanity restored a much richer reward. Indeed, we later find out The Man was
bluffing and he emphatically rebukes, "When the man sat down, He agrees to
play the game."
There are no gimmes in poker, no do-overs. It's a game where names and titles mean
little and where random selection, luck, and skill rein over the golden rule;
much like life. There are many
interpretations as to what this film is about and screenings should generate
lively discussions as to its message, the lessons, and the present state of our
I especially like the use of religious slip-ups like the
faux pas when Darlin' Lil, seductively played by Claudia Christian, shouts out
"God Damn it!" after being dealt a bad hand. She directs an apologetic "Sorry"
to Jesus Christ. Claudia is best known
for her roles in "Atlantis, the Lost Empire" and "Babylon 5:
Thirdspace." Buddy Daniels Friedman
plays Eyeball O'Reilly, the one-eyed gambler whom can't seem to get a good
hand. Here he admirably plays a chronic
loser and has been seen in such movies as "Road to Red," and
"Ninja Cheerleaders." Alex
Veadov ("We Own the Night" and "Air Force One") plays the
Son of God with the panache of a man doubting his own faith. It's a skillful depiction balancing biblical
imagery against that of a troubled soul seeking answers. Steve Eastin ("Catch Me If You Can"
and "Up in the Air") portrays the highly skilled card mechanic known
only as The Man. He's a tough hombre
chewing on his cigar and totally into the game.
He has no tell, no clues as to what cards he's holding, and yet his mind
is always calculating how he can win. A
caricature of the Old West, it's a most engaging portrayal.
Clifton Morris rounds out the cast as the lackey and Martin
Beck plays the dozing old man off to the side.
Production efforts are first rate in this back and white tribute to the
film noir. The dingy smoke-filled back
room plays into the seedy aspects of the game and the stark light/dark lighting
cleverly reveals the changing demeanor of the players. Close-ups dominate the contest and visually
pull us into the game, a game played with cards, chips, and shifting devious
eyes. Jesus came to town and he
won. Or did he?
CREDITS: Stars: Steve Eastin, Alex Veadov, Claudia
Christian, Buddy Daniels Friedman, Clifton
Morris, and Martin Beck. UPM/Line
Producer: Michael Silberman, Cinematographer: Roger Chingirian, Production Designer:
Lia Roldan, Costume Designer: Chase Jezowski, Sound Design:
Kevin Rittner ,Written by: James Aloysius von Seitz, Producer/Director/Editor: Kamal John
Iskander, Produced by Holy Ship Productions, Time: 12 minutes 31 second.
April 3, 2020