Matt Damon plays Mike McDermott, a card shark (or a rounder, get it?). He used to play cards for serious money, but as we see in the first few minutes of the film, he blows a lot of money on one hand, and decides to give up poker for a while. Here's one problem I had. He's in law school, and said he used the poker money to pay for his tuition, and I'm assuming his nice New York apartment with his girlfriend. Once he stops playing cards, and drives a truck around all night, how in the hell does he still pay tuition? I'm in law school right now, and it isn't cheap. I've also lived in New York, and I know those apartments aren't cheap either. I don't think you make enough money driving a delivery truck around, to pay for tuition and an apartment.
When Mike's best friend from his younger days (Worm, played by Edward Norton) gets out of prison, Mike goes to pick him up. Worm immediately wants to get into a game of poker, and to bring Mike along with him. Mike says no, but we all know that that isn't going to happen. Mike jumps back into the game, loses his girlfriend, gets beat up, owes money to the Russian Mob, uses a lot of technical card playing terms, and comes out clean in the end. Like in Rocky III where Rocky gets his ass kicked by Mr. T early in the movie, then fights his way back to win in the end.
The movie is predictable, no question about that. So what you need are strong, likeable characters to help push you through that. So let's run down the major characters in the film.
Matt Damon's Mike McDermott - I liked him. Damon has a regular guy charm about him that makes him stand out from the rest. So I liked his character.
Edward Norton's Worm - Didn't like him at all. But I think I wasn't supposed to, so that's good. All Worm did was try and destroy both himself and Mike. I think it was because he felt the only way he could get Mike's attention, was by bringing Mike down with him. But his abrupt departure near the end of the film left me hanging.
Mike's girlfriend Jo (Grechen Mol) - Didn't like her at all. First of all, why is there all this hubub about her being the next IT girl? She was only in the movie for a few minutes, and her character annoyed the hell out of me. All she did was whine and question every move Mike made. I think if they had added a little more to Mike and Jo's background story, this would have made more sense, but as it stands, she came off as being whiny and annoying.
Mike's law school professor Abe Peterovsky (Martin Landau) - He was supposed to be the moral center of this movie. Yet his major thing was basically to tell Mike that he should leave law school and play cards. What kind of professor would say that? And what he does near the end of the movie is almost unbelievable. Like the actor, didn't like the role.
Lastly I'll do John Malkovich as Teddy KGB - KGB is the owner of a major illegal underground poker house. He also happens to have ties to the Russian Mob. Malkovich plays him with this over the top accent, but makes him a great character at the same time. He was there as the bad guy to Mike's good guy, and pulled it off amazingly. So I liked this character.
There were others to be sure, John Tuturro and Famke Janssen among others, in the film that sort of helped the (plot?) along. Overall though, I found I didn't like or undertand a lot of the characters. What made this movie was Matt Damon and John Malkovich. Thankfully, the movie centered around Damon, and his "enemy" in the film was Malkovich, which made the movie entertaining and something worth seeing. You probably need to be a Matt Damon fan to really enjoy Rounders. But at the same time, if you've never seen a Matt Damon film (and why haven't you seen Good Will Hunting yet?) this is a good one to see as well. Damon does have the ability to be the next big thing, if he isn't already.