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3 Gambling Films You've Probably Never Seen


Las Vegas and Hollywood are almost synonymous when it comes to fancy suits, flash, boulevards and big lights - making films about casinos and nightlife a perfect fit with the glitz and glam of Tinseltown. It’s not surprising that almost everyone has heard about films like Casino Royale, Casino, 21, Ocean's Eleven and The Gambler.

When it comes to drama, what better way can you leverage high stakes plots than by putting characters in situations where they can literally change their lives overnight. They’ve got the limelight sure, but what about the gambling films that slip between the cracks? Here are three films you may not have heard of, which are with watching if you enjoy the genre.

Hard Eight

Hard Eight (1996)


This is neo-noir crime thriller is a feature film debut for Paul Thomas Anderson, who is best known for There Will Be Blood, Punch Drunk Love, Inherent Vice and Boogie Nights. The film stars some big names in Philip Baker Hall, John C. Riley, Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L Jackson. The plot centres around a professional gambler named Sydney who finds a lost soul in John, a young man, sitting outside a diner. After making his acquaintance, he soon discovers John has to pay $6,000 for his mother's funeral.

He offers to take John to Las Vegas and teach him how to make money for a living by gambling. The two grow closer as John becomes a protégé but complications arise over several years of friendship as John falls for Clementine. Compelling characters, understated performances and true originality underpin this moody drama. Hard Eight serves as one of the acclaimed director's first films.

Owning Mahowny (2003)


This Canadian drama directed by Richard Kwietniowski stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver and John Hurt, based on a novel and Canada’s largest one-man bank fraud. The gambling drama follows a Toronto bank employee Dan Mahowny, played by Seymour Hoffman, who rises up within the bank getting access to bigger and bigger accounts - soon gaining access to millions of dollars.

Unbeknownst to his colleagues, he makes weekly trips to Atlantic City, where he uses money he’s skimmed to gamble. Treated like royalty by the casino manager, his undercover dealings soon catch up with him. This character study centres around Mahowny, his relationship with Belinda and leans on an incredible turn from Philip Seymour Hoffman whose unkempt and earnest performance as an unhinged bank clerk drives this film set in the 1980s.

Even Money (2006)


Even Money follows the story of three complete strangers: Carolyn - a published author, Walter - a has-been magician and Clyde - a man in deep debt, whose lives intertwine in the world of gambling. The film stars Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Forest Whitaker, Ray Liotta and Kelsey Grammer, rounding off a sharp cast under the direction of Mark Rydell (On Golden Pond, The Long Goodbye).

Tense, tightly scripted, this independent crime drama gives you a strong dose of reality offering an ensemble drama with the same ambitions as Traffic, Syriana and Crash. A modern film noir we flit between each of the character's scenarios as the drama intensifies.