In this extremely underrated 1990 film the worn glamour of gambler Jack Weill, played with expert subtlety by Robert Redford, is a perfect echo of the attractive corruption of Havana on the brink of the 1959 Cuban revolution. Locked in the pursuit of his big game, "with guys who don't even think how much they're playing for", Redford's character is unapologetically self-centred. "How many guys do you know who are really crude?" he asks with a charming leer. But Jack is drawn into a different climate of feeling when he encounters the earnest, committed revolutionary social consciences of Roberta and Alberto Duran, played flawlessly by Lena Olin and the uncredited Raoul Julia. Jack falls in love with Roberta, and begins to commit himself to a world larger than the circumference of his poker table. The betrayals and cruelties of the Batista regime are echoed in miniature around that table, and we can see Jack's growing understanding that, however he avoided it in the past, his world is indeed political, filled with kinds of suffering and commitment that he can't avoid any longer. When he makes his choices, and lives with the consequences, we watch the brave sadness of a man who knows that if he'd faced then what he understands now, he might have won. The excellent performances by Alan Arkin, a perfect illustration of the world to which Jack once aspired, and Tony Plana, as the Cuban reporter who yearns to be brave enough to act on his knowledge, expand the textured subtlety of this picture.
Why was the film spurned in the US when it first appeared? I have to think that American audiences found it difficult to accept a film presenting both a sympathetic presentation of Castro's revolution and a clear condemnation of covert CIA support for Batista's government. Jack Weill's story is a parable of the pain and glory of growing up. That's a process that American audiences seem unwilling to face.
Drama / Romance / War
Drama / Romance / War
Cuba, December 1958: The professional gambler Jack visits Havana to organize a big Poker game. On the ship he meets Roberta and falls in love with her. Shortly after they arrive in Cuba, Roberta and her Cuban husband, the revolutionary Arturo, are arrested and tortured. Arturo is reported "shot while trying to escape," but Jack manages to get Roberta free again. He can't, however, keep her from continuing to support the revolution. Jack has to make a choice between the beautiful woman who keeps putting herself in harms way and the biggest poker game of his life; between the man he could be and the man he is.
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January 18, 2019 at 10:41 AM