There’s nothing quite like a classic heist movie. There’s also something innately classic about a high-stakes poker film. Combining the two makes a good deal of sense, as both are often associated with the simultaneously glitzy and dangerously tempting casino scene. It’s a world often viewed through the lens of Las Vegas, the USA’s famous city where anything goes. But Cold Deck is a Toronto-made tale.
That’s honestly the coolest thing about Cold Deck. A poker drama/heist movie shot in Canada? That’s great from a local perspective, and awesome for film in general. Nothing will beat Vegas for the general vibe of poker-based conflict. But it’s always fun to see how different areas of the world interpret the thrills of the most intense card game ever conceived. Sadly, Cold Deck never gets as suspenseful or action-packed as either of its would-be genres imply. It’s too busy playing familiar hands to deliver anything worthy of your full attention.
Casino movies should be seeing renewed interest in Canada, as online casinos are coming into fashion throughout the country. After years spent at home with nothing but the internet to keep us company, the demand for better online services has increased Casino platforms saw the chance to make their move and took it. Now, online casinos are legal in Canada including Ontario, as they are already all-in. The provinces will have legal sports betting from April 2022 and further.
Online platforms are going all out to attract new users by promoting generous signup bonuses for new users. It’s all aimed at turning first-timers into regular gamblers. So Cold Deck, the story of an addict named Bobby, should resonate as a cautionary tale.
Bobby has been taking money from his sick mother to fund his poker habit, but, of course, she ends up needing large sums of money for a sudden medical bill. Bobby’s got a slick mentor figure that he can’t fully trust, and a dead-end job that won’t pay the bills. You know where this is going, right? Bobby’s mentor suggests he rob a wealthy player called Turk to get the money he needs quickly. The problem is, Turk is a dangerous and vengeful sort. When the heist goes sideways, as they often do, the stakes are supposed to get sky-high and make for an exciting climax.
That’s the problem with Cold Deck, however. It follows the clear path of a “heist gone wrong” movie, but the action never ramps up in a meaningful way. The flat dialogue doesn’t help, leading to a finale that doesn’t carry the danger it’s meant to.
It doesn’t help that Cold Deck’s hand is filled with cards we’ve seen before. And, look, there’s nothing wrong with clichés. Action movies are full of them. But clichés need to be executed so well that the audience ignores that they’ve seen this before. They also need to be spaced out so that there’s at least some surprise between them. Cold Deck isn’t interested in doing either of these things, so it just feels like it’s checking off boxes.
As far as performances go, we see familiar Goodfellas face Paul Sorvino make an appearance as the mentor figure, playing the kind of sleazy criminal you’d expect. Lead Stéfano Gallo plays Bobby very subdued, as if beaten down by the hand he’s been dealt. It makes sense, but it also saps some much-needed energy from the plot’s later events. Nothing was overall terrible in the acting or camera work, but nothing elevated it beyond the typical trappings of the genres it’s emulating.