Casinos can provide the setting for some of cinema’s most iconic scenes but they can also be over-relied upon as a backdrop for some appalling movies. This list takes a look at the good and the bad of films that use the casino as a backdrop for their drama.
Casino Royale (2006)
The first outing for Daniel Craig as James Bond was one of the most highly-anticipated movies in the Bond franchise due to Craig being such a controversial choice as the suave secret agent. However, the British actor resoundingly smashed the ball out of the park with this debut as 007 and his superb performance that brought a new dimension to Bond was boosted by a storyline that nothing short of captivating.
One of the pivotal and most dramatic scenes in Casino Royale is when Bond enters a high stakes Texas Hold’em poker game with a number of high rollers in an effort to capture a notorious global criminal in the form of Le Chiffre. The atmosphere created by the extravagance of the casino environment only added to the suspense and class of the movie and contributed towards this movie being labelled by some critics as the best Bond movie of all time.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
No, not the original 1960 version that starred the Rat Pack but the re-make that starred George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle et al. It shows the elegant side of Las Vegas with its gritty and high-octane underbelly. The script was spot on, the plot produced an intensity throughout the film that kept us all on the edge of our seats, and the way the characters were portrayed had us rooting for these guys even though they were technically bad guy criminals.
One thing that Ocean’s Eleven did well was take full advantage of the myths of the Las Vegas security world and how the owners are actually just as involved in crime as the criminals. It dramatised Sin City’s culture perfectly and had every man wishing he was playing the role of Danny Ocean. The appearance of the Bellagio, The Mirage, and the MGM Grand almost made it feel like Las Vegas was a character in this movie and it stole the show.
For mere mortals who couldn’t possibly imagine high stakes games, let alone in a live casino against an arch enemy, there are plenty of poker sites vying for your business, and you won’t even have to wear a bow-tie. Just rock up to the virtual felts (try here for UK players) and channel your inner Bond!
The Hangover (2009)
If there is any Hollywood movie out there that encapsulates the chaotic, bizarre, and relentlessly fun vibe of Las Vegas any better than The Hangover then we want to know about it. Todd Phillips directs a movie that avoids giving us a play-by-play of the events of a bachelor party in Sin City (until the photographic evidence during the end credits) and instead takes us to the morning after as our three lead characters played by Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis try to piece together what happened as they wake up to find the bachelor missing with no recollection of the night before.
The majority of this movie was filmed at the iconic Caesars Palace and there is even some card counting antics thrown in for good measure to add some gambling romance into the movie. This is a positive advert for anyone that is considering a trip to Las Vegas, particularly if it’s for a bachelor party or a hen night.
There was so much expectation placed upon this movie that it was only a matter of inevitability that it would fail miserably. The film is based on the best-selling Bringing Down The House novel by Ben Mezrich that covers the true story of the infamous MIT Blackjack Team that toured Las Vegas casinos and made millions in profit through mathematically-inspired card counting tactics.
The movie starred a young and sexy cast including Jim Sturgess and Kate Bosworth with star quality coming from veterans Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne. However, for anyone that is a regular at casinos it just felt like it made heroes of those that try to break the spirit of the casino industry. It glamorized borderline cheating and the script was so poor that it fell flat on so many levels when it could have been such a huge success if it was produced more effectively.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (2015)
Well, where do we begin with this absolute travesty of a movie. First of all, it’s staggering that the original farce that was Paul Blart: Mall Cop managed to earn enough in takings at cinemas across the globe that Columbia Pictures felt it warranted giving Kevin James the chance to don his unfunny security guard outfit again.
Set against the backdrop of the Wynn Las Vegas this movie is quite frankly an abomination and should be distanced from anything casino-related. The fact that this movie has scored 8% on Rotten Tomatoes and is rumoured to be nominated for Worst Picture, Worst Actor, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Screen Combo at the Golden Raspberry Awards says it all. Wynn Las Vegas, where was your self-respect?