An up-and-coming poker player tries to prove himself in a high-stakes match against a long-time master of the game.An up-and-coming poker player tries to prove himself in a high-stakes match against a long-time master of the game.An up-and-coming poker player tries to prove himself in a high-stakes match against a long-time master of the game.
McQueen is The Cincinnati Kid, a rounder, someone who looks for poker action in various towns, and Robinson is a long-time champion, also a rounder. There were no casinos in those days, the '30s. The story takes place in New Orleans.
Robinson, as Lancey Howard, has made a few enemies in his day, notably Slater (Rip Torn, who in these '60s films reminds me of Bradford Dillman). Slater is determined that when Howard hits town, he loses to The Kid. Toward that effort, he bribes one of the dealers, Shooter (Karl Malden). The two men finally meet in a poker game, one which has breaks - you can't play nonstop for 30 hours. During one of the breaks, The Kid tells Shooter that he knows the deal is rigged and insists on a clean game, saying that he doesn't need help to win.
Subplots concern Melba, Shooter's gorgeous wife (Ann-Margret) who is after The Kid, and The Kid's romance with a local girl (Weld).
The poker game is great. It's tense and exciting, although the hands are statistically nearly impossible to appear in the same game.
McQueen does a lot with a little - a look, a stare, a smile, He was a master of subtle acting, plus he has natural presence and sexiness. He died way too soon. The versatile Robinson, who could be a down-low crook or a mogul, is charming and elegant here.
The location, the period, and the dialogue lend themselves to the atmosphere created. And the cast is terrific -- Joan Blondell as a replacement dealer, Jack Weston as a fellow player, Torn as the angry Slater, Ann-Margret in top form in looks and sex appeal, Malden as the frustrated Shooter - all are excellent.
Considered one of the best, if not the best poker movie of all time. It's also a wonderful example of how "action" can take place without car chases and bombs going off.
- Sep 14, 2014