Hollywood has had a love affair with casino-themed film because they know they have a certain unique appeal. One of these is the exciting opportunity for heist, caper, crime and fraud-related plot lines, which have always captivated audiences. Throughout the years casinos have been featured in film extensively, like in the casino fight from Black Panther. In doing so, the film also paid homage to James Bond’s many casino locations. Now let’s take a look at some films that not only feature casinos, but have also helped defined the genre.
John Dal’s exploration of the seedy side of high-stakes poker oozes charisma and charm. It evolved into a cult hit, with its lingo becoming a fixture in poker vocabulary. While it didn’t actually invent expressions like “the flop,” “splash the pot,” or “nut straight,” it did popularize them for widespread use.
Brilliant characters and incredible performances aside, after over 20 years, it’s the film’s cultural legacy that endures. Decider explains that it was thanks to Rounders that poker evolved from a social taboo into an acceptable form of entertainment. It led to more people learning the game from online sources and playing at casinos across the world. PartyPoker’s guide on how to learn the basics has articles that cover every facet of Texas Hold’em. This allows players of every level to get a good grasp on how to be successful at the tables with the hope of turning into the next Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) or Lester “Worm” Murphy (Ed Norton). After all, it was Rounders that originally introduced the world to the allure of No-Limit Texas Hold’em and was a true game-changer in the genre.
Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas (1998)
Based on Hunter S. Thompsons book by the same name, with a screenplay that at times is literally lifted from the pages verbatim, the film is a surreal, psychedelic trip through a savagely toxic portrait of Las Vegas. Johnny Depp’s incredible rendition of Dr. Thompson remains legendary, through a rollercoaster of a ride from LA to Vegas which features famous landmark casinos like The Flamingo Casino, Stardust, and the Riviera. Gilliam’s film is a critical juxtaposition of the Vietnam War, Horatio Alger’s American dream and journalism. It shows an atavistic portrait of the Las Vegas casinos filled with mindless gamers, idiot middle-American thrill-seekers, squares, and hallucinatory grotesques. A unique and unprecedented look at the Vegas culture, loathing is key in this film. You either love Vegas and its casino culture or you hate it. This movie hates it.
Casino Royale (2006)
The film that revived the James Bond franchise, Casino Royale is based on Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel. A far cry from the wacky, Pink Panther-esque 1967 rendition of the book, Martin Campbell’s 2006 version revolves around a high-stakes Texas Hold’em poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro. Bond must thwart an international banker/terrorist by winning the poker tournament, which features a $10 million buy-in and $5 million re-buy. Full of tense moments, the poker table scenes interspersed with action vignettes and Bond’s near-death experience, create an exciting climax. Bond has no gadgets, no campy bad guys or foolish action scenes. In fact, this is the beginning, Bond’s transformation from what Judi Dench’s M describes as a “blunt instrument” to the suave, calculated killer that is James Bond.
Martin Scorsese’s epic crime drama is another that depicts the greed, corruption, and violence in Las Vegas. Shot mainly at the Riviera hotel-casino in Vegas, Casino is the Paradise Lost of the Vegas genre. The film is about a gambler, a mobster and a hooker who are given Las Vegas on a plate. Robert de Niro’s character is loosely based on Frank ‘Lefty’ Rosenthal, the mob associate who ran a series of Vegas casinos for the Chicago outfit in the 1970s. His character is summed up well in the scene where one bootless cowboy is violently ejected head first out of the door for resting his feet on top of a casino table. Characterized as a gangster’s paradise, the film is a “morality carwash for wise guys.” It brilliantly recreates the look and feel of the corrupt and decadent Vegas of the 1970s and 80s. In an orgy of drugs and homicide, Casino portrays a garish Las Vegas, where the surface is all glitz and glamour, while the seedy underbelly teems with crime and corruption.