The Cincinnati Kid (1965)

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Once again, another long drought from blogging. It’s good to be back again. Today, I take a look at The Cincinnati Kid, which starred the late, great Steve McQueen. McQueen plays The Cincinnati Kid, who is a poker player that is on the rise. The film shows his rise and his climatic poker showdown with fantastic player, Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson).

I’m not an expert on the game of poker, but I think this would be a satisfying film for one who enjoys the game. The Cincinnati Kid is making a name for himself in 1930s New Orleans as a great poker player. The folks of the poker circle think that the Kid is the next big thing and is unstoppable. The Kid has let his success go to his head a little bit as he has become cocky and brash. He is a rebel, which McQueen plays well. Everyone wants to see the Kid take on Lancey Howard, who has been a dominant force in the game of poker. Every character in the movie thinks that the Kid will end Lancey’s reign as the top poker player. The Kid has a potential love interest with Christian (Tuesday Weld), who he happens to tease. She really loves him, but to him, she is almost someone he can use. He does not want to get too close to her because he knows how potentially dangerous playing underground poker is. The showdown between Lancey and the Kid is memorable with Lancey pulling off a shocking victory with a straight flush. The Kid is defeated and his whole world has come to a screeching halt.

The plot slowly builds to the epic duel between the two, but the characters talk about the event so much, that you wish it was sooner. Indeed though, when it does comes around, it is very entertaining. Director Norman Jewison’s shots of all of the poker players and their facial expressions just make everything so much more tense. The screenplay from Ring Lardner Jr. and Terry Southern is superb, except maybe for the romance part. I mean, the buildup of the Kid as a top ace in the poker world is excellent, but when it comes to his romance of Christian, it is like he is confused. One minute, he is in love. The next, he is cheating on her and blaming her for walking in the door. The film made me develop a love/hate relationship with the Kid. I respected him for his game, but not for his personality. His personality made me ultimately root for Lancey in the end.

Lancey, to me, was the most entertaining character. Here was this man, who could possibly be at the end of his prime. If the Kid wins, everything could be over. The duel between the two gives Lancey some sort of health problems, but it does not affect his strategy or swagger. That is another fault to mention with the story. What in the world does Lancey have wrong with him? But either way, he wins and looks like a sly devil doing so. Robinson did a great job, but so did the other actors such as Ann Margaret, who played the sneaky Melba. Melba was after anything she could get her hands on and Margaret played it with a charm. Tuesday Weld was gorgeous as Christian and give her character a soft heart. When she catches the Kid cheating, you could really feel the emotion and tension thanks to Weld. It makes you feel as if the Kid does not deserve her at all.

Should you see this movie? Yes, of course, especially if you like McQueen or poker. The film may be boring in some parts, but it is definitely worth sticking around, especially for the final acts. I am also interested to see if anyone was like me and started rooting for Lancey.


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