Poker Night (Blu-ray Review)

Poker-NightPoker Night, a movie that doesn’t really have much to do with the game of poker itself.  So, if for some reason the box art isn’t telling you already of that fact, then let this be that sort of disclaimer for you.  The film is a crime thriller from Greg Francis, a man who looks to have an extensive background in those crime and FBI and shows you see on cable channels all time time (Francis had nothing to do with this show, but I personally find myself getting glued to Forensic Files on HLN before bedtime).  Poker Night debuted on Video On Demand back in early December and enjoyed a short limited theatrical release just before Christmas.  It comes to Blu-ray courtesy of XLrator Media under their Macabre label.  These are the same folks who brought us Jersey Shore Massacre, but to anyone hesitant to pick up another one of their titles because of that film, this is a much improved pick up both in terms of film competency and Blu-ray authoring and technical aspects.

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Stan Jeter is a new detective that gets invited to play a game of poker with several veteran police officers and detectives. Each one tells Stan about various insights they gained from different murder cases they investigated, which turns out to be invaluable when Stan is captured and imprisoned by a vicious, anonymous assailant. He finds that he has been imprisoned with Amy, the daughter of a police officer, and that he must use the stories of his fellow poker players to find a way for both himself and Amy to escape.

Poker Night has enough talent in front of the camera that I was entertained enough to get through the whole movie just fine, even if I didn’t think it was that good.  It has a great cast of some veteran television/supporting actors in complimentary roles here.  Ron Pearlman, Giancarlo Esposito, Titus Welliver and Ron Eldard sharing stories and jabs at one another makes for some fun exchanges, monologues and scenes.  However, most all their stuff is secondary and background to our main character who just isn’t interesting at all from both a character and performance standpoint.  And its hard to belief he is some rugged, experience cop when he looks like he could still pass for a high school sophomore in a movie.

Possibly my biggest issue with Poker Night is that its a big convoluted mess that feels like some “adult” crime thriller I would have written in middles school that somehow got made with talented actors.  Its got this idea about guys chatting about their crime stories while another is going on, but they feel so separate and not like they have a common link.  Plus, the characters are the much overdone and immature “I’m a badass” attitude from EVERYONE.  Continuing with the immaturity is the dialogue which mistakes swearing and overuse of the F bombs as some sort of development or adult elevation of material.  The actors play it all well, but its so cheap and adolescent.

Speaking of middle school, the big bad, the killer of the movie looks pretty laughable in his outfit.  The mask he wears looks like a fifth grader saw The Collector and tried to make their own replica mask for it at home.  Plus, how boring is it with the killer reveal and they use an actor who plays a serial killer pretty much every time he’s in something?  Its just sort a lame when you get down to it.

I don’t know if this should have been called Poker Night or Amateur Hour.  The film is at least competently made and well acted from some recognizable faces.  Having a lot of twists and turns is enjoying enough to watch.  Mainly the best part was the detectives sharing their stories around the poker table.  Its not a very good movie by any means, but I could see some middle schoolers really taking a liking to it.  The film is one that would like feel like a more rich adult entertainment to a underage kid who isn’t supposed to be seeing it.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Clarity/Detail:  A solid digital picture.  The image is sharp and crafts a warm comfortable look in the poker house and a grungy one for the kidnap basement.  Detail is pretty above average in picking up surface texture like wood grain, glass smudges and clothing texture.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and sometimes get very dark hiding detail.  Some of this is intentional as its the natural of the more naturally lit digitally shot picture.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are in a more warm, natural look.  During the kidnap sequences things are a little more teal filtered.  Colors are bold without popping too hard.

Flesh Tones:  Natural and consistent.  Stubble, wrinkles, cuts and scratches all look fresh and clean from almost any distance.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean.

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: A solid track that gets the job done.  Sound effects are loud and distinct.  There is a nice balance between voice, effect and score.  This 5.1 track has its moments with its action, but overall isn’t going to blow anyone out of the water, just give them a solid experience.

Low Frequency Extension:  There are some nice moments where gunsots, car doors shutting, physical fights and the like get a boost from the sub.

Surround Sound Presentation:  This is a very front heavy track.  There are some atmospheric or ambient sounds that emanate from the rear, but everything is mainly channeled from the front.  The right and left speaker traveling is pretty nominal to what appears onscreen.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Crisp and clear.

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Trailer (HD, 1:41)

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I found myself to be a bit old in the tooth for this movie, even though its definitely in the R-rated/Unrated territory.  The maturity lacks severely in the dialogue and plot of the film.  But, I will give it that its at least competently made and not incredibly difficult to sit through unlike the last XLrator Media film I had to cover.  This Blu-ray release gives nothing in the way of extras, but gives a solid performance in the audio and visual department.  I don’t recommend the film, but for those wanting to see it, I highly recommend renting it over a blind buy.



Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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