You can be forgiven for missing the odd indie film release each year – even avid movie buffs struggle to watch every notable indie release. But, what was surprising about Poker Night was that regardless of its stellar, and rather relevant cast, how it slipped unceremoniously under the radar.
Writer and director Greg Francis is mostly known for his work on several television series on U.S. television. But prior to Poker Night, he’d not made forays into film. For his debut film, he enlisted some of U.S. television’s biggest hits of late. From Sons of Anarchy he called upon Ron Pearlman and Titus Wellinger, as well as utilizing the onscreen skills of the villainous fast food mogul Diancarlo Esposito from Breaking Bad.
If its cast were anything to go by, Francis would’ve hope for a decent return on his first indie. However, this wasn’t to be the case – it bombed at what little cinemas it was showcased. It did even worse in its U.S. BluRay and DVD sales, pulling in just over $20,000 reports The Numbers.
So what went wrong with Francis’s debut film? Well, it certainly didn’t get the exposure it wanted even though it had a fairly respectable cast list. Yes, indie films aren’t going to get the mass exposure that films from reputable moviemakers get, but this had enough substance to make more at the Box Office than it did, that’s for sure.
There is a possibility that potential viewers were out off by the title. The title suggests that this is a film that centers on poker – it couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, the film does have a significant scene that plays out around a poker table, but, there’s no deep terminology, nor is there really any connotations on the outcome of this game of poker. The scene is merely there as a educational tool for lead actor Beau Mirchoff’s character in his journey to become a more well-rounded cop.
Even if people were put off by the title, casino games are still very relevant in today’s pop culture. The World Poker Tour operates in just about every country in the world, and huge gaming meccas like in Macau and the Philippines are being expanded yearly according to Rappler. Even online portals are optimizing their websites to compete against some of their land-based heavyweights. Gala Casino has recently brokered a deal with bookmakers Ladbrokes for over $2 billion to help expand its business into more territories. The site also features a raft of film-themed games to attract movie fans to online gaming.
It’s disappointing that Poker Night didn’t get the praise it deserved. Because what Francis does here, is integrates countless plot twists in the film that keep the audience on their toes. The crazed psycho that Mirchoff’s character comes up against is a refreshing bad guy, who brings the film to life. And with the elder statesmen (Pearlman, Wellinger, Esposito) they fit into their roles like a hand in a well-worn glove.
In short, Poker Night should have been received better than it was – it’s an enjoyable film especially for horror buffs. Don’t be put off by its Box Office ratings, as the bulk of actual reviews from film hacks are okay. Let’s just hope Francis can be even more inventive with his next indie, and who knows, it might actually get noticed by the mainstream media this time.