Written by: Jake Johnson, Joe Swanberg
Directed by: Joe Swanberg
Starring: Jake Johnson, Joe Lo Truglio, Nicky Excitement, Keegan-Michael Key, Aislinn Derbez
Jake Johnson (New Girl) is small time gambler Eddie Garrett, who agrees to watch a duffel bag for an acquaintance heading to prison. When he discovers cash in the bag, he gambles it away. When the prison sentence is reduced, Eddie has short amount of time to get the money back.
This feels like an older movie, from the tone to the ever present film grain. This isn't a film about another degenerate gambler. Eddie makes a big mistake which causes him to fix it by changing his life for the better. Of course stealing money always has consequences, and the movie provides the chance to guess at what will happen rather than making it obvious.
Johnson does a solid job, but the ending undercuts the movie. I enjoyed the movie and the conclusion could have pushed me even farther into liking this, instead I'm left wondering what the ending should have been.
The opening montage showing Eddie at his job parking cars before revealing he's a gambler feels a lot like a movie from the 70s/80s. It feels dated, but that's not a bad thing. It fits the mood of the film.
Eddie is content at his parking job and gambling away what little money he makes, despite his brother urging him to do more with his life. When an acquaintance asks Eddie to hold on to a duffel bag while he goes to jail, warning him not to look inside, Eddie can't help himself. He finds a lot of money and plans to borrow just a little bit.
He does win, meets a girl, and has a great day. Of course it's all downhill from there. Eddie can't stop when he's ahead. He can't stop at just a little bit. While he doesn't gamble all of the money away, he loses twenty thousand more than he has.
I like that the movie had some restraint. Too many movies like this go all in with the main character losing everything, cementing that something terrible will happen. I wondered if Eddie would have to make some kind of deal with his acquaintance to repay the money. Eddie's fee for holding the bag was ten thousand, so he was only ten short. By only losing a portion, the movie provides multiple possibilities at what could happen.
Instead Eddie decides to change his life. He begins working for his brother, quits gambling, and slowly repays the money. When his acquaintance calls Eddie and lets him know his prison sentence is reduced, Eddie still has a lot of cash to repay. He exhaust his available options, left with a poker game as a last ditch effort.
I liked that this movie subverts the genre a little bit, but the ending didn't hold to that. Eddie enters a high stakes game and quickly ends up way down in the hole. The ending is too shallow and too predictable. I wondered what would happen earlier because there were a few ways this could go, and we get a bland ending.
Eddie is definitely an addict, and while he left gambling behind, it seems like one last foray to right his past transgressions should carry more weight. It's like the creators decided to wrap up the movie as quickly as possible. There has to be a better ending that never made it off the last few pages of the script.