Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) was a world-class skiier.
Yes, driven by a strict and demanding father (Kevin Costner), but
she says all Olympians are.
Then came the big, freak injury.
The effective end of her career.
She's accepted into law school, but decides to take a year off
first. She goes where it's
And goes to work for, you guessed it, a controlling, dominating
man. Who introduces her to
this little poker game he has on the side, so she can play hostess.
Except this isn't just a little game.
It cost $10,000 to get in. And
you have to be invited. Molly
is fascinated with this shadow world of rich men willing to lose six
figures in a single evening. She
meets foreign royalty, Hollywood stars, hedge fund operators, and even one
guy who won a World Series of Poker. To
keep everything legal, she gets no “rake,” or percentage of the table.
She only gets to keep her tips.
And then the boss decides, on a night when he's the big loser at
the table, that he doesn't need to pay her for the “real” work she
does for him; she makes enough
in tips at the weekly game. And
she decides to get even. And
run her own game.
She was good at it. She
used her smarts, and was also willing to use her looks.
But when she found out one of the “regulars” was financing
another one, she privately called him on it.
Can't do that. Breaks
the integrity of the game. So
he showed her who's boss. He
moved the game himself. And
suddenly she was out.
Yeah, this would have been a good time to just fold up the tent and
go to law school as orginally planned.
She had some money saved. But
she found that she liked being around the action, and she knew that she
knew how to make it happen. So
she moves to New York and starts a game there.
And then another. And
then another. Pretty soon,
she's taking little white pills to keep her awake.
And you can see where this is going.
One little increment at a time down that wide highway to perdition.
She starts to get sloppy with her vetting of the players.
She winds up letting in a couple of Russians with Mob ties.
A couple of them pay her a friendly visit about “protecting”
her. And when she refuses,
they arrange to have her beaten and robbed.
When one of her “regulars” can't pay, she realizes she's the
one on the hook, so she arranges with her dealers to “skim” for the
house, which, of course, immediately makes the operation illegal.
The FBI raid comes faster than you can say “jokers wild.”
Enter her defense lawyer (Idris Elba).
He tries to get her to make a plea bargain, to give up the names in
exchange for her immunity. She
won't do it. And it's not just
because she's afraid of retribution. She's
worried about her good name.
This is a rapidly-paced movie with lots of fast dialogue.
It skips between different eras of her life.
It assumes the viewer's knowledge of poker, and how it's played.
It moves quickly, and hardly leaves the viewer any opportunity to
catch a breath. But it's
mesmerizing, and relentlessly fascinating.
And, it's based on a true story.
At the end, you may not feel sorry for her.
But you'll understand how easy it was for her to slide downhill,
because, as we all know, a little disregard for gravity and momentum, a
little slip, and we're plummeting right along with her.