I have always had a weakness for films about gambling. They always make it look so easy to win hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in one night. It is a dream that many of us often, including me.
Shade continues that tradition, and this is a sleeper that is about four times as good as you would expect it to be. I cannot imagine those looking for a little fancy card play being disappointed. It is a story of cons, cons, and more cons.
Because of that, I am going to be deliberately vague in my plot synopsis. To give away any of the double crosses in this film should be a crime!
Vernon (Townsend) is quite the card shark. The feats that he pulls off would be considered magic by many, and Charlie Miller (Byrne) sees his talent immediately and recruits him for a high end poker game. Miller works in cahoots with Tiffany, a glamorous woman who only sees dollar signs.
Several double crosses and cons later, our group finds itself in a game against the legendary Dean Stevens (Stallone). He is considered the king of cards, and is notorious for wiping out an entire bar of goons who catch him with a king under his palm. Will Vernon be able to outsmart Stevens? And who is conning who?
Shade has an above average cast for a film that has gotten as little distribution as this one. Stallone delivers as the stern Stevens, a sly and unpredictable poker player. Townsend is also strong as Vernon. He knows his limits, but is constantly pushing them. Melanie Griffith has a brief part as Stevens’ ex-girlfriend; but she may be coming back for more. Jamie Foxx also has a part and is the majority of the comic relief in a suspenseful film. Byrne and Newton are both strong as well.
Writer/Director Damian Nieman also delivers the goods. The entire film was shot in and around Los Angeles, which is a nice change of pace from the standard Las Vegas locale in most gambling films. Shade has a nice pace and never loses viewer interest.
Films like this are very hard to review because you are always running the danger of giving too much away. This is the kind of film where the surprises are all the fun, and there’s surprises aplenty to be found.
Shade is the kind of film that makes for a perfect Saturday night rental for those in need of some reality-bending card play. We all have the dream, so why not live vicariously through the characters and let them lose all the money?
Studio: Dimension Films
Length: 101 Minutes
Rating: R for language, violence, and sexuality/nudity.
Theatrical Release: May 7, 2004 (Limited)
Directed by: Damian Nieman
Written by: Damian Nieman
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Melanie Griffith, Gabriel Byrne, Hal Holbrook, Thandie Newton, Stuart Townsend