DVD Review: ‘Poker Night’ Is A Decent Thriller

Jeter is a hero cop that has just been pegged to become a detective. Getting this promotion in Warsaw, Indiana leads to an invitation to a poker game led by some of the best and respected police detectives to have served in the city. Throughout the game they tell Jeter stories from their career that taught them lessons they feel are necessary to pass on to the new generation. After a good poker night, Jeter heads out on patrol. He answers a random call from his police radio, and ends up getting tased from behind. Jeter awakes to find himself the captive of a mysterious man in a mask with a personal vendetta against him. It will take all he knows, and everything he learned from the poker game, if he hopes to make it out alive.

‘Poker Night’ is a decent thriller that falls short of being really good primarily due to its odd narrative style and occasional attempts at odd humor. The film attempts to tell its story by jumping back and forth haphazardly between the present and the past. In order to drive the story and rally suspense specific details of stuff that happened in Jeter’s past are withheld from the flashbacks until they can be dramatically revealed. This is not by any means a new technique, but the way it is handled here is somewhat sloppy. The reveals do serve as plot twists, but they also tend to mess with how you think about the main characters. Rather than character development the film instead has character deformation. In theory, this could be a very interesting technique, but here it just makes the characters feel more grating.

There are multiple flashback scenes where the veteran detectives walk Jeter through pivotal cases in their career. These scenes are definitely highlights of the movie. Not only are they entertaining, but they serve as an interesting device to introduce things that help Jeter in his current abducted predicament.

The tone of the film is fairly inconsistent. It is largely dark and twisted, but every once in awhile there are shots of random dark humor. Just as soon as these moments show up they quickly vanish. Granted, some of these scenes are really funny, but the weird tone changes just make the film feel inconsistent.

Fans of thrillers full of twists could do a lot worse than ‘Poker Night.’ It definitely makes for an entertaining watch. While it has more than its share of shortcomings it makes up for these with a well-conceived plot.

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