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He Said, She Said Review Site

The Cincinnati Kid

What She said:

She

I'm not a huge fan of sports and gaming movies.  I often find them too formulaic.  The standard plot goes something like this; underdog dreams of making it big, trains hard, faces adversity, begins to find success, then faces even greater adversity, and against all odds overcomes said adversity to win.  Now, let's combine my general distaste of these types of movies with my aversion to watching people play poker.  Now that's torture.  So, you can understand my hesitancy to watch The Cincinnati Kid, a 1965 Steve McQueen movie about a fella who takes on the best and most respected poker player around.

The Cincinnati Kid

Here are your basics: McQueen is The Kid, an up and comer in the poker world. He's quite talented but he's starting to get a head about him.  Poker is his life and the confidence that The Kid is acquiring has him shooting for the big leagues.  When he hears that a dominant leader in the game, The Man, is in town, The Kid decides to challenge him to a showdown.  The Kid is convinced that he can take out the old man.  In the meantime, The Man absolutely embarrasses this rich dude, Slade, and so Slade decides he wants nothing more than to see The Man lose to The Kid.  He tries to bribe the dealer for the matchup, Shooter, to stack the cards in The Kid's favor.  Initially, Shooter refuses but Slade can be very persuasive.  So, the big match goes down, and that's all I'll say because there are a few twists and I don't want to give them away.  Let's just say things don't go exactly as planned.  The movie also touches on The Kid's relationship with his girlfriend and the temptation that he faces as a sort of local celebrity. 

McQueen is super serious as The Kid, although I'm not convinced he's really the best actor.  Ann-Margaret plays Melba, Shooter's wife and a complete vixen who likes to get around a little.  You may also recognize Rip Torn as the evil Slade.  There are a few other notables but in more minor roles.  The film really is a story of relationships and the cost of winning.  The Kid is so hungry to be at the top, that he definitely sacrifices what he has with his girlfriend.  The movie is intriguing albeit not as intense as I would have liked.  I think nowadays filmmakers would have done more with music, lighting, and camera work to really up the stakes.  The plot can get a little overcomplicated and without a full grasp on who is who, it's easy to get lost.  But the film throws in a nice plot twist at the end that I really liked.
If you're like me, you'll attach to the character of Lady Fingers, who is minor to the plot but a complete ball buster.  Overall, the movie is not too bad, especially considering the subject matter. 

Thumbs mostly up.

The Cincinnati Kid

What He said:

He

Eric “The Kid” Stoner (Steve McQueen) is an up-and-coming poker player in New Orleans. Playing cards is pretty much all he does and it shows. Everyone is talking about him, saying he’s the next big thing.

The Cincinnati Kid

After hearing about him for a couple of years, Lancey “The Man” Howard (Edward G. Robinson) decides to finally make his way to town and play the Kid to see who really is the best. Lancey plays it cool though, not rushing into anything. In fact, he shows up and plays a game with local wannabe mobster named Slade (Rip Torn). I like how he shows up, plays a normal game, and acts as if the town isn’t talking about this much anticipated match-up between him and the Kid. Slick move on the old-timer’s part, if you ask me. After humiliating Slade in the game, Lancey agrees to a match with the Kid, and has it set up through Shooter, a local card dealer.

Shooter (Karl Malden) is a respected former player and current dealer. He has built a reputation as a solid guy. He is also a friend of the Kid’s and though he grants the Kid’s wish and sets him up in a match with Lancey Howard, he cautions him. Apparently the old veteran had bested Shooter in a game, much like he just did with Slade.

Speaking of Slade, that guy is up to no good. Embarrassed from the beating he took at the hands of Lancey, he blackmails Shooter into fixing the game between him and the Kid. Slade wants to see Lancey beaten, because his pride suffered a major blow when Lancey beats him. Lancey Howard is the best card player around, but Slade doesn’t care, losing still eats away at him. Shooter doesn’t know what to do. The Kid is his friend and he also doesn’t want to jeopardize his reputation. Drama ensues.

The drama comes in all different forms too. Slade’s old lady, Melba, is trouble. This dame has the hots for the Kid, and every time she gets him alone she lets him know it. The Kid has a girlfriend (Tuesday Weld) and Melba (Ann Margret) is married to Shooter, who is friends with the Kid, but she doesn’t care. The Kid is a rising star and she wants a piece of that action.

The Cincinnati Kid

When they sit down and play, there’s quite the crowd. The game is insanely long too. It goes on for days. There’s all kinds of tension and drama. Shooter has to decide if he’s going to cave to Slade and fix the game so the Kid can win, the Kid is trying to fend off Melba’s advances, and that doesn’t even cover the game itself.

This is a slick, tense, and generally entertaining movie. I enjoyed it a lot, which says something, because not only do I not play poker, I think watching it on TV is a huge waste of time. So the idea of watching a movie about a poker match  was not appealing to me. The premise sounded boring. The movie itself was not.

The male leads were solid. McQueen had good chemistry with Edward G. Robinson and Karl Malden. But the females stole the show. Ann Margret played the part of the no good hussy perfectly. She was displaying her cleavage, batting her eyes, and giving off devilish grins like a champ. The woman who plays one of the card dealers, Lady Fingers, was a riot too. This broad is the kind of gal who can hang with the boys and not bat an eye. She’s a ball buster and a good card dealer too boot. She seems like she'd be fun to have a drink with and just listen to her tell old stories.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on August 15, 2013.

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