It’s time to turn our attention to a different movie category, after our most recent review of the excellent Sean Cisterna documentary The Long Rider. The heartfelt odyssey follows Filipe Masetti Leite’s journey from Calgary to Sao Paulo on horseback, a long and taxing journey that ultimately ends in jubilation. A very different type of film often portrays the same wild ride of emotions, oscillating between despair and glory.
Casino-inspired movies can be nail-bitingly good when done right, exposing the inner turmoil of the characters and the sheer joy of landing a life-changing jackpot. Canada has been responsible for several standout movies in the genre over the years, so we thought we’d explore some of the best. Stay with us for an analysis of our five favourite casino-themed movies made on Canadian soil.
How to get a hands-on Canadian casino experience from home
Before we dive into some examples, it’s important to know how you can experience a hands-on Canadian casino experience yourself. Of course, the easiest way is to head to a land-based casino, but this isn’t always the best option these days. In the past couple of decades, online casinos have become a much easier way to get your casino fix, primarily because you don’t even need to leave the house to get stuck in.
However, the problem with basic online casinos is the lack of atmosphere. You won’t find anything akin to what you may see in the best casino-inspired movies, although a relatively new online casino development has changed all this. Live casino is an exciting new way to play your favourite gambling games online. Instead of looking at digitised versions of things like roulette, live casino enables the live streaming of real-life dealers and casino tables direct to your screen. Bear this in mind as you read about the best Canadian casino-themed movies below.
Our 5 favourite Canadian casino-themed movies
There’s no denying that many casino-inspired movies are trash, but there is an equally large number of excellent movies that have been released over the last several decades. Here are five of the best:
Part heist film, part gambling odyssey, Owning Mahowny tells the story of a Canadian bank manager who goes on an Atlantic City gambling spree after stealing money from his workplace. Featuring an excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman in the starring role, the film is at times troubling in its investigation of how difficult it can be to control a gambling addiction.
Owning Mahowny is based on a real-life story involving a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce employee who stole more than $10m to fund his gambling habit. This is an excellent movie that goes a long way towards showing the dangers of addiction.
Hitting theatres in 2015, Cold Deck is one of the newer Canadian casino movies to gain plaudits. It revolves around a poker player called Bobby, who struggles with an ill mother and a troubled relationship with the chips. Another exploration of the dangers of gambling addiction, it also features a fascinatingly close look at the dynamics and emotions players feel while seated at a poker table.
Unfortunately, for the first half of the film, Bobby experiences a hefty losing streak. Things become even more problematic as his sick mother’s bills continue to rise. A high-stakes poker match is the setting for the movie’s climax – a fitting end to an emotional rollercoaster of a narrative. Cold Deck scores well on IMDB and other rating sites, and it’s well worth a watch.
The Last Casino
The Last Casino is an enthralling journey through high-end blackjack strategy using the MIT Blackjack Team as vital inspiration. Similar to other blackjack movies like 21, The Last Casino focuses more on the mathematical mechanics of strategies like card counting rather than some of the more negative side effects of gambling.
The narrative centres on a professor who is banned from casinos in Ontario and Quebec due to card counting. Over the course of the movie, he teaches his brightest three students the art of card counting, eventually winning $35,000 from an initial $1,000.
Lucky Girl was released in 2001 and quickly became a cult-classic across Canada. When a young girl called Kaitlyn wins a gargantuan lottery prize, she becomes obsessed with making correct predictions and proving how magically lucky she is.
Unfortunately, her lucky streak starts to fall into disarray, and as Kaitlyn gets sucked deeper into the gambling world, things turn from bad to worse.
Starring big names such as Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake, The Players begins with a poker-obsessed student paying his tuition fees through online poker. He soon realises he is being scammed and jets off to Costa Rica to track the perpetrator down.