All In Movie Review

All In Movie Review

Director: Nick Vallelonga

Cast: Dominique Swain, Michael Madsen, Louis Gossett, Jr.

The lack of creativity in the title of this film should give some indication as to its quality.  Put simply, All In is not good.  The combination of a ludicrous plot, poor character development, uninspired writing, and sub-par acting make it reminiscent of a movie that one might see on the USA network at either three o’clock in the afternoon or three o’clock in the morning. 

The story revolves around Ace (Dominique Swain), who learned the game of poker as a child from her father, Seal (Michael Madsen), an ex-Navy SEAL-turned professional gambler.  When Ace is ten-years-old, Seal dies in an auto accident, leaving her ultra-fundamentalist Christian mother to raise Ace on her own.  When Ace grows up, she goes off to medical school. 

One of the first things she does at medical school (the timeline is unclear – it seems as though everything happens within a couple days of arriving at school) is get together with her two female roommates and three male classmates to cram for a quiz.  After the six play strip poker and Ace wins a lucky hand, the other five hatch a plan to form a poker team, with Ace as the ringer, in order to win money to pay for tuition.  Each member of the team has a special “talent,” (reading tells, math skills, photographic memory, etc.) which when combined, would supposedly make for an unstoppable poker force.  They don’t collude – Ace plays while the others feed her information on her opponents beforehand. 

Side note: this is the most attractive group of med school students you will ever see.  In fact, one of the actresses, Michelle Lombardo, is a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.  The strip poker scene is straight out of a cheesy 1980’s musical montage.

Inevitably, Ace ends up making the final table of a huge tournament.  One can guess what happens from there, and, of course, there’s the requisite, fairly obvious plot twist.

The actual poker playing isn’t all that bad.  Of course, there are the expected suck-outs and re-suck-outs, but for the most part, the poker is relatively believable.  That can’t be said for the plot.

Ace’s mother is a completely pointless character.  She throws Seal out of the house for playing poker after she had told him not to gamble any more.  He tosses out the cliché “You knew what you were getting when you married me,” line, she yells, he soon dies.  What is infuriating is that in real life, there is no way these two would get married.  She’s a bible-thumping-gambling-is-a-sin-you’re-going-to-hell type of woman, and he’s a degenerate gambler, and has been for a long time.  On top of that, she disowns Ace for going to medical school because she believes our fates should only be in the hand of god.  Come on.  Seriously?  I’ve seen hard-core fundamentalists before, but disowning your child for wanting to become a doctor?

The whole poker scheme concocted by the med school friends could have been handled better.  It was not developed at all.  They played strip poker, apparently evaluated Ace’s talents from one hand, and hit the casino.  It did have some promise – it would have been interesting to see more of the interaction and plotting by the team members – but it was mostly throw-away material. 

Interwoven with the poker story was a convoluted secondary plot line revolving around Ace making rounds as a med student in the school’s hospital.  Drama, including illegal dealings by her instructors, ensues.  This entire storyline is completely pointless.

Because of the multitude of characters (we have Ace, her five friends, Seal, Ace’s mother, Seal’s buddy Caps (Louis Gossett, Jr.), a few doctors, and a couple poker players) and unnecessary plot lines, not enough time is spent developing any of the characters.  Contrast this with Rounders, which limited its characters and stuck to one story, allowing the audience to really care about what they were watching. 

Then again, maybe it is good that the characters weren’t developed well, as the acting was terrible.  The best actors were Madsen and Gossett, Jr. – the former plays the same type of character he always plays, while the latter is barely in the movie.  The rest of the cast looked like they belong in after-school specials.

Add it all up and you have a bad poker movie.  If it does show up on USA in the middle of the afternoon sometime, sure, give it a go.  It beats Springer re-runs.  But don’t bother purchasing or renting the DVD.  You’re not missing anything.