Like books, movies should never be judged by their cover. When I saw the press release for Poker Night, it looked like another serial killer/slasher flick, but with a surprising cast. Ron Perlman we all know and love whether it’s as Hellboy or Sons of Anarchy, the man’s a genre legend. And Giancarlo Esposito has gained quite the following after his terrifying turn as Gus Fring from Breaking Bad.
Featuring a masked killer holding a “Killer Hand” on the cover, look at the featured image and tell me this doesn’t look predictable. Thankfully, writer/director Greg Francis delivers something unexpectedly less serious, with some scenes outright hilarious. And on purpose! Poker Night is available now on Blu-ray from XLrator Media.
We meet the hero of our story, Jeter (Beau Mirchoff), bleeding on a lawn surrounded by police. Jeter narrates the story, explaining the differences between wisdom and hindsight, neither of which were on his side. Soon, we learn that Jeter has been on the trail of a serial killer, who just so happens to have recently taken his girlfriend Amy (Halston Sage).
Now, the masked madman has also taken Jeter captive and he must use everything he’s learned from poker night — featuring a hand of veteran hotshots: Lieutenant Calabrese (Perlman), Bernard (Esposito), Davis (Corey Large), Cunningham (Ron Eldard), and Maxwell (Titus Welliver) — to outwit his captor and save himself and Amy.
Poker Night slashes its way to Blu-ray featuring pretty decent transfer. Framed in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio, if it weren’t for the amount of noise buzzing throughout the runtime, this would be an even better presentation. Colors range from properly balanced to oversaturated to undersaturated with a lot of post-production added to the mix. Detail is always sharp, lending some extra gruesomeness to the random bits of gore.
Blacks are deep and inky with no crush, and banding never creeps in. As for the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, dialogue can be a little on the soft side, but only when the surrounds tend to kick in. Being a front-heavy mix, at least it never gets in the way of hearing what’s being said. Ambiance is lackluster, aside from a scene at a bar. All in all, this gets the job done with bass kicking in for the prerequisite jump scares. English subtitles are also available. The only special feature is the film’s trailer.
Writer/director Francis could have picked up the pace here or there, and the ending leaves a little to be desired. Once it gets to what feels like the wrap-up, you realize there’s still 10 minutes left. But at a mere 105 minutes, the story is involving enough, the mystery engaging enough, and the torture surprising enough to keep you watching. The cast is having fun, with each of the cop’s stories coming across like those Dean Winters-starring Allstate commercials. Comical, but intense in tone. Poker Night often times feels like a sillier version of Seven, but is good enough to warrant at least a rental.