Synopsis

An improvisational comedy using a handful of actors playing characters competing in an actual poker tournament.

Director

Zak Penn

Cast

Woody Harrelson
as One Eyed Jack Faro
Werner Herzog
as The German
Dennis Farina
as L.B.J. Deuce Fairbanks
David Cross
as Larry Schwartzman
Cheryl Hines
as Lainie Schwartzman
Richard Kind
as Andy Andrews
Chris Parnell
as Harold Melvin

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by lancerama 9 /10

Surprisingly I enjoyed this film

I have to say I really enjoyed this film. I saw it at Tribeca last month and to be honest I didn't have high expectations. I personally don't like most of the movies the writer/director (Zak Penn) has written of late (mostly big action comic book movies), but this is not that kind of film.

What honestly attracted me to this film was that it's an improv style film starring one of my favorite SNL people ever, Chris Parnell. He doesn't disappoint. He plays a lonely poker player who has some kind of mental problem where he's brutally honest and very, very skilled in math (which makes him a great player). Chris steals every scene he's in, which aren't enough if you ask me, but I'm biased so take that with a grain of salt.

The other actors hold their own in their respective roles all working to try and win a big tournament for 10 million dollars. I don't know enough about poker to know if it's at all accurate, but the good thing is the film doesn't really focus on actual poker all that often.

If you like the films of Christopher Guest (which I do), then I think you'll like this film as well.

Reviewed by Slickflix 8 /10

"Yes, I did get thrown out of my own Casino."

It's hard to be a poker fan in the world of movies. Let's face it, how many great poker movies can you think of? "Rounders" perhaps. Despite "Texas Hold'Em" growing extraordinarily popular over the last few years, Hollywood has really failed to capitalize on the trend. I'm happy to report that the wait is over. "The Grand" not only emerges as a wonderful poker film, but also one of the best comedies I've seen in ages. While it doesn't seem to be well known now, I predict it will find a massive audience on DVD and Cable, ala "Office Space".

"The Grand" is a mocumentary (in the tradition of Christopher Guest), following six players as they compete in huge Texas Hold'em tournament in Nevada. Along the way we meet many other supporting characters, including family and friends of the main six, as well as other participants in the tournament. The initial six are…

Woody Harrelson as "One Eyed" Jack Faro. He is a lifetime drug abuser who has inherited the "Rabbit's Foot Casino" from his grandfather. A large debt has forced him to enter into the tournament his Casino is hosting.

Cheryl Hines as Lainie Schwartzman. She is a mother of five who supports her family (which includes a deadbeat husband) as a professional poker player. She is also the sister of…

David Cross as Larry Schwartzman. He is also a professional poker player, known around the circuit for his obnoxious behavior. The fact that his father puts his support behind his sister Lainie only motivates him more to win the tournament.

Chris Parnell as Harold Melvin. A statistics expert who uses his knowledge of numbers to his advantage as a poker pro. He is also ludicrously Anti-Social, and lives still lives with his elderly mother.

Dennis Farina as Deuce Fairbanks. The old timer who's been on the scene for years, and has nothing but contempt for what's become of the game over the past few years.

Richard Kind as Andy Andrews. A novice player who won an online poker tournament by chance to win his seat at "The Grand", despite knowing absolutely nothing about the game of poker.

Some supporting performers include Judy Greer, Michael McKean, Ray Romano, Jason Alexander, Hank Azaria, and Shannon Elizabeth. Real life Pro players Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, and Phil Laak also make appearances, as well as filmmakers Brett Ratner and Werner Herzog.

As you can see, this is a huge ensemble, and director Zak Penn handles it impeccably. Every performance shines, and the pace is fast and fun. I think I laughed three times as much in this film than in any feature all year. The humor is always there, be it in the witty dialogue, the great ensemble, or the various clever scenarios.

As stated before, the film is structured similarly to a Chris Guest mocumentary, alternating between testimonials of the characters, and following the players around as they play in the tournament. The tournament itself is presented similarity to a telecast of "The World Series of Poker", complete with mismatched commentators.

I'm not the biggest fan of Penn's superhero stuff, but I thought he did something clever with his Herzog Loch Ness project. Here, he hits a real sweet spot, creating a real love letter to fans of poker and smart comedy alike.

Reviewed by todmercy 8 /10

This movie is a winner

Every once in a while a filmmaker is brave enough to try something a little different. This is one of those occasions and it deserves bountiful praise for both bravery and laughs.

The cast is excellent and weird while the story-lines are randomly weaved together gems of the absurd and quirky. Further, the concept of playing out a real poker tournament while asking these actors and comedians to stay within character is nothing short of genius. Not a simple accomplishment and thus, it doesn't always work perfectly and therefore no 10 stars.

The ensemble put together for this movie pretty much ensured some hysterical stuff. It is a good idea to step out of the way and let funny people be funny. Well done indeed.

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