If you haven’t seen the movie “Rounders”, go rent it. Now. It’s such a great example of every aspect of filmmaking executed with near perfection. The movie is a card shark drama with Matt Damon, Ed Norton, John Malkovitch, John Turturro, Gretchen Mol, and Martin Landau.
Matt Damon plays Mikey, a law student who is a Rounder, a card shark in New York. His old buddy Worm (Ed Norton) is a loser for life wise-ass. Mike starts the movie losing his life savings in a game and tries to go straight, but things keep coming up to bring him back into games.
Without giving too much of the plot away, this movie is a great example of solid writing, acting, and direction on a par with such classics as “The Godfather” and “A Few Good Men”. No special effects, no high speed car chases, no crazy cinematography tricks… just a really good script with really good actors.
The lines are quotable, the plot keeps you engaged from moment one, and each performance is excellent. Ed Norton is incredibly slimy as Worm, Landau has a great cameo as a father like figure to Matt Damon, and Damon delivers one of the first solid performances of his career.
There’s also a great deal of humor mixed in with the seriousness.
I recommend watching the movie 3 times. First time, focusing on the script. Second, focusing on the acting, and finally focusing on the direction. First time through you’ll notice how each scene builds on the next to increase the dramatic tension. On the second watch, you’ll see how restrained each performance is, how each line of dialog comes out of the actor’s mouths with precision so you believe it. Also notice how quotable most of the lines are. And on the final go, you’ll notice the camera movements and overall construction of the narrative.
At the end of the day, renting and studying “Rounders” from Netflix is just a good as an exercise in learning about filmmaking as anything you’d get watching similar movies in film school.