Before the likes of Rounders (1998) graced our cinemas and in anticipation of the poker craze that was going to sweep Americans, fans of poker would often stating how The Cincinnati Kid (1965) was an archetype on this subject matter. Sadly, and the irony of it all, is that the game is ludicrous – the longest round in the film has Edward Robinson winning with ace of tens – and jack-high straight flush. That is a recipe for disaster, and the kind of move that gets people, especially, dealers, demolished.
In this film, directed by Norman Jewison, Erick Stoner (played by Steve McQueen), also the Cincinnati Kid, is a professional level poker player with a glowing reputation does a lot for his image including attracting renowned of stud poker player Lancey Howard (Played by legendary poker player Edward G. Robinson ). Shady characters also come creeping out of their holes with exorbitant stakes.
An early win for the Kid causes a standoff, and local heavyweight Mr. Slade looks for means to have the game work in his favor. He recruits Karl Malden’s dealer, a brilliant fellow, in the hope that he will feed Cincinnati the right cards and Mr. Slade would win big. However, things don’t pan out in Mr. Slade’s favor because The Kid has his reputation to protect. The scene is one incredible game show, with plenty of complications at and off the table.
The film is an easy-going screencast and one you are likely to enjoy from the word go. It’s set in a great location – the local docks of New Orleans. Easy and welcoming to the eyes, it was filmed with a smooth, open style flourish, until you get to the actual game, which is when you get to see all the big tricks in the books.
The cast is great. For one, Mr. McQueen is a man of principles, not the kind shared by everyone else, but his own. This game means the world to him, but he managed to spice up his life with some romance. The game, when it starts, dominates most of the film. Despite the fact the rules of high stake seem foreign to armatures, Jewison manages to find a way of making the basics of the game sound irrelevant, and you are left enjoying every bit of it.
You only need to read their expressions, perceive a heartbeat, and be surprised by the revelations during break time. The game is much more than just about money and stakes. A poker face is helpful in almost all situations, and it works in this film like a charm. Certainly, the film is remarkable, enjoyable, and rewarding, which is a testament to McQueen’s act being part of the heavyweight fraternity.
My problem with the film is the way it portrays an initial cockfight. Even Jewison, in a commentary, has a hard time expressing what about the film is bogus, and quickly added that they made sure no bird was injured or hurt in the process.