Some of you may know Zak Penn for his work in movies like Last Action Hero and X-Men: The Last Stand. However, back in 2007 Penn became known as a superhero movie writer who made a poker movie after creating the first ever poker mocumentary on the game of poker.
Known simply as “The Grand”, the movie takes a look at a World Championship poker tournament by the same name as well as its players. The film was done in a mockumentary style which means that there was a general outline on how the story was to proceed, but there was no actual script for the actors.
The cast for this movie included Woody Harrelson, Cheryl Hines, David Cross, Richard Kind, Chris Parnell, and Dennis Farina. Harrelson played Jack Faro, a loser at the game of life but an amazing poker player trying to save his grandfather’s casino. Hines plays Lainie Schwartzman, a female poker player looking to prove she is the best “poker player” regardless of gender.
David Cross plays Larry Schwartzman, Lainie’s brother and the bad boy of the poker scene. Richard Kind is Andy Andrews, a so-called amateur that seems to be too lucky to be real. Chris Parnell is Harold Melvin, a genius Texas Hold’em poker player with zero social skills. Dennis Farina is Deuce Fairbanks, an old school poker player who wishes poker was still in the days of the Rat Pack and the Vegas Mob.
While the movie is designed to be over-the-top and satire, the Grand actually captures the essence of tournament poker, including the craziness that actually does occur in real-life poker play. The final table of this movie is also unique in that the poker play and outcome was unscripted and players actually had to rely on their play to get through to the end.
As the movie and final table proceed, you will see how the game impacts their lives and some will actually change as a result of the event. The Grand might have been pitched as a satire about poker, but in the end the movie winds up capturing more about the reality of the game than many scripted films have been able to capture to date.
The Grand gets 7/10 Butterflies
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