Overview: Shared life experience stories are at stake in this poker game, as an officer recalls the wise words in a story of his own. XLrator Media; 2014; Rated TV-14; 93 minutes.
Another Guy Movie: Some of the best cops engage in drunken frivolity and exchange success stories as pearls of wisdom to the rookie. Guns, beer, and a psychopath in a mask could potentially serve as the making for just another testosterone filled guy movie. Director and Writer Greg Francis opens with a blood-soaked man strewn across the lawn alongside an unconscious teenage and the police circling in.
The Art of Storytelling: The best beginnings often start at the end. The set-up is effective: shock factor end-beginning scene, the game-changing mistakes, and the situation at hand. The strength lies in supporting Francis’s transformative perspective. Instead of being a passive listener, Francis shifts Detective Stan Jeter (Beau Mirchoff) to an active, doe-eyed piece in this game. This adjustment allows the audience dual lenses: the cop reliving his own stories and Jeter’s present connection. To say this movie has plot-twists is an understatement; it’s a living labyrinth of hallucinations. The first mistake the audience can make is to become comfortable in the linear progression. The second mistake is convincing yourself you know who it is, how he did it, and why he did it. The third mistake is not heeding the advice of the veterans. Failure to avoid these mistakes will result in recursive mind implosions.
The masked lunatic is a separate entity, requiring an additional set of spectacles. The leather, stitch-mouthed psychopath is a plot-twist in humanoid form. Being amongst the thoughts of the serial killer is eerily comical. Such light-heartedness is not regularly found in villains. Francis maintained consistency by infusing the personality of the storyteller into how the memories played out. The absence of a named killer or an alias provides two essential points: the power behind a name and the ability to convince me all monsters are human.
Final Thoughts: Mirchoff nailed the appearance of a rookie…a little too well. Tone down the belittling burns about women and replace Mirchoff, and Poker Night would have excelled.