Or also known as “The Joker” in the UK was released in 2014 as a crime thriller, written and directed by Greg Francis. The film stars:
- Beau Mirchoff as “Stan Jeter”
- Halston Sage as “Amy”
- Michael Elkund as (the serial killer in the mask)
- Ron Perlman as “Calabrese”
- Titus Welliver as “Maxwell” (Amy’s dad)
- Ron Eldard as “Cunnigham”
- Giancarlo Esposito as “Bernard”
- Cory Large as “Davis”
- Dean Wray as (The mentor)
I found the trailer quite interesting because it didn’t reveal a lot of information about the events that will shown in the film, I briefly understood the story and thought that this hasn’t set the film up for a good light; leaving me intrigued to see what will be uncovered if I do watch the film.
And I can say this, the film was surprisingly good in the sense that how the narrative is exceptional in piecing all the events together, coming to an amazing finale that leaves the audience taken aback.
So, to summarise the film is extremely difficult because I think that it is a too simple but overly tricky story about a new Detective Stan Jeter who is caught by an anonymous man dressed in a suit and mask. He is locked in a basement where the man goes in and drugs/beats him; it then reveals this man has kidnapped a girl (Amy) as well as, who is in the room next door, chained to the ceiling.
In order for Stan to escape, he recalls on the poker nights with retiring police officers that share anecdotes on their experiences as police officers, this is what he uses to try to escape the masked psychopath. But each time Stan gets caught by him and returned back to the basement, for instance he manages to tip the chair over breaking free from the tied rope and goes upstairs to find a phone and call the police. As he does so, the masked man returns home and captures him, taking him back down to the basement and punishing him by super gluing Stan’s body to the wall; so when he awakes and tries to break free, he would cause extreme pain to himself due to ripping his skin off from the wall.
Next, the story reveals the man letting Amy make a phone call to her Dad (Maxwell), before grabbing the phone off of her and demanding he meets him at the house North of the river. However, when Maxwell arrives, a man is walking his dog at the same time, he suspects this is the man who has got his daughter but the man pleads it’s not him. He apologises for the disturbance and begins to walk away, when suddenly the man with the dog tasers him and takes him into the house. When inside, the man no longer being anonymous, watches the CCTV recording of Stan escaping the basement and inside the room with Amy. He then goes into the room where Stan uses a brick to smash him on the head, knocking the gun out of his hand and using it to shoot him multiple times. But then another masked man enters, indicating that Stan had killed Maxwell (Amy’s Dad) thinking it was the psychopath.
Suspecting that the area is mysterious, another police officer called Calabrese visits the house, questioning the suspicious man as he behaves strangely; when figures out it’s the man who has abducted Stan and Amy, he shoots him, leaving him unconscious handcuffed to a chair. Calabrese then goes downstairs to find Stan in the basement, but before Stan can ask him where the man is and that he can escape from handcuffs, he appears and shoots Calabrese through the head, squirting blood all over Stan.
When he leaves, Stan finds keys to unlock his hands tied to a chain and pretends to be asleep, and when the man re-enters Stan manages to get him in a headlock, tying him to the chair and beating him up. For the reason that the man says that Stan killed his psychopathic mentor in one of his cases, and now has another mentor that’s on his way to the house.
Stan hurriedly rushes to rescue Amy and carries her outside; but when he gets outside the police are already there, suspecting that he is the masked man, although he is innocence, the gun has been planted in his hand by super glue.
The film goes onto explaining how Stan was charged for everything, sent to prison, only being released when Amy awakes to tell the truth; this is still not enough as they don’t catch the man until one day Stan investigates more on a little girl being abducted. He finds the house and goes to the basement finding her tied to a chair with mask covering her mouth, she warns him by facial expressions of her eyes directing his attention to the masked man standing behind him, he fires his gun killing him. To end the film, is Stan sitting down at the table where Cunningham, Bernard, Davies and a new trainee talk about how in different situations it’s up to you to save lives.
“Poker Night” has three film posters, the one shown on the left gives the idea of the masked man but when you first look at it, it seems as if the film is a sci-fi not only because of the alien looking creature, but the colour choice of blue and the lighting suggests that the film has a supernatural theme to it. Next, the film poster in the middle reveals the actors, who their characters are central to the story, for the reason that Stan (Beau Mirchoff) recalls on his experience of Poker night with the retiring police officers, which he tries to use their “wisdom” as a means of helping him escape; but of course each time he fails, only later realising that it’s up to his own wisdom to overcome the evil. Last of all, is the old film poster (on the right) for when the film was called “The Joker”, it hints at an aspect of dark humour when truly after watching the film, it’s no thriller to laugh at…
What I do like about this film is that it starts with the ending shot of Stan Jeter lying on the ground with someone else’s blood covering him, and a voice over of him explaining the meaning behind the word wisdom. To be honest I don’t really enjoy watching films that begin with the ending as I feel that it spoils the excitement for what’s yet to come. However, in “Poker Night”, I felt intrigued to know what has lead him to be lying on the ground, never imagining the events the film soon revealed; suggesting that the audience should expect more plot twits to come when watching the film, as it’s extremely effective for the film to start with the ending. I can then link this to the narrative style of circular structure as the narrative begins at the end events, so that the rest of the film takes a journey through the actions that leads to the final ending.
Which narrative for me, plays a significant part in film, like the structure of events where Stan is locked in a basement to his flashbacks of him sat at the table playing Poker, at first I began to enjoy this as it was so interesting to see how he recollects this experience so well, that it allows the audience to be a part of it by seeing everything in detail. But after a while, the constant back and forth motion of watching a flashback became quite repetitive, almost as if the audience only needed to see a couple of the police officer’s anecdotes not all 4 as it started to exhaust and bore the audience a bit.
Which all in all, I agree with what Bloody Disgusting had said that “Nearly every time the film jumps back to the poker game then over to Jeter in bloody distress, the film just never manages to recover that feeling of anxiety it establishes early on.” to the extent that each time the suspense is lost, I find it is regained at some point, still keeping the audience on the edge of their seats guessing what will soon happen.
Moreover, the mise-en-scene in the film is good in some areas for instance, the the special effect makeup of fake blood and the cuts especially on the character Stan’s face, such as the audience feeling anxious as he gets his face torn from being super glued to the wall; therefore the audience expect to see sore, red skin on the side of his face, and when his face is shown, it’s done so well that it’s almost as if we have to look away because it’s too much and makes us feel like we are enduring his pain.
On the other hand, the costume hasn’t been done to well because in some scenes the masked man seems really scary as his mask looks creepy and eerie as his face isn’t revealed at the start, but then halfway through the film when his face is introduced to the audience, the element of fear towards him is lost as the audience know it’s just a man behind a mask. But then again, it adds mystery to the film as this psychopath is dressed just like a normal man in a suit, although he covers his face, hiding his identity and furthermore representing his psychopathic mindset is shielded from society.
Adding to this idea is that I think the character Amy should have had more special effects make up on because she was meant to be abducted for 2 weeks before Stan was. Therefore, she should have been made to look more dirty with her hair being messy and perhaps having bruises and cuts on her, as the masked man was a psychopath; meaning that he could have done anything. Although, she did have cuts on her wrist which the audience know due to her being constantly handcuffed and chained to the ceiling; so hinting at some aspect of struggle and pain she had endured.
Overall, I find “Poker Night” an extremely captivating film that leaves the audience on the edge of their seats throughout, attempting to guess what will happen , but the sudden plot twits divert our attention to something we wouldn’t have ever predicted; my rating for this film would definitely be: