Shade Is A Good Movie To Get Into If You’re A Poker Fan

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shade movie poster

As mentioned in other reviews previously, it’s apparently really easy for filmmakers and scriptwriters to always tie in the game of poker with the criminal underworld. Yes, gambling has always been a shady venture, whether it’s done in the heart of big casinos on the Vegas strip or in the privacy of darker, more shadowy places, or even in a friendly game on a home kitchen table. It’s just too easy to give up a part of your property, or sometimes a part of your soul. Like many other poker films, Shade evokes this dark environment, casts a dark shadow on the game of poker, and turns it into noir/drama/action moviematerial. Surprisingly enough, despite being a little cliched, it all turns out well, as I explore in this review.

Sometimes it doesn’t work due to the fact that it’s a cliche, and sometimes it works. The well-reviewed Shade is an example of the latter. In Shade, Sylvester Stallone (who is interestingly not top-billed) plays Dean, an annoyingly great card sharp who has ties with mobsters in Los Angeles. The film focuses on different attempts by hustlers, played by an almost who’s-who, well-reviewed cast of Jamie Foxx, Thandie Newton, Stuart Townsend, and Gabriel Byrne to play the different illegal underground poker games in LA and take the big money involved.

They decide to go after the biggest pots in the city’s underground rackets, and after pulling off a successful heist, they realize that they’ve actually pissed off the wrong people.

They quickly learn why it’s not a good idea to mess with the bigwig mobsters (which apparently exist) in LA who are not happy at all and want to take their money back, which had also been used in a losing bet. The three hustlers (Jamie Foxx’s Larry is killed after a faux pas on the poker table) end up playing the Dean in a climactic poker game for all the marbles. In the process, they quickly realize why the legendary Dean is the legendary card sharp he is. There’s a lot of killing and guns and pretty intense stuff packed into the movie, which is just about par for the course if you’re looking to watch something dark (also probably why it’s called “Shade”).


For anyone looking for a throwback movie to all the dark, gritty, and mysterious black-and-white noir thrillers of older times, then Shade is the perfect film to watch. It’s not that much of a throwback, to tell you the truth, but it services fans well and knows exactly the kind of movie it wants to be. That’s usually a good thing, as most films that are similar usually end up completely stealing tropes and presenting them as total rip-offs. For a film that came out all the way back in 2003, it’s best to expect it as a product of its time. It’s not the best-produced movie out there, especially in the year it came out, but it definitely is one of the slickest and most stylish, even going from the trailer alone. There are many twists and turns along the way that make it worthy of a page-turning piece of pulp fiction. It might not be everyone’s type at all, but for those who like these kinds of stories, then it’s certainly a satisfying story and movie.

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It’s precisely the kind of story it is, however, that provokes a polarizing set of reviews for Shade. There are reviewers who pull for the different twists that come with a movie and a genre like this, but at the same time, there are also reviewers who think that it’s not good practice to keep trying to fool a movie audience for the sake of a mind-boggling plot that gets by on its mystery. There’s no true universal acclaim, and Shade appears to be a movie that falls squarely under the fence of the “either you like it, or you don’t” kind of film.

What we think, though, is that’s all right. So long as the film traverses all its tricks and sleights-of-hand in a proper, logical way, then attempting to con the audience is fine.

That’s the key: it has to be done smoothly, like all the best card sharps do when they’re out there trying to hustle a poor sucker.

shade movie

Human emotions are built to be messed with, and all it really wants is to be messed with in a way that the payoff is mentally satisfying. Of course, whether the payoffs are worth it is totally subjective based on the viewer, but to a certain level of personal standards, any payoff is a good payoff so long as it’s logical and evokes an oh-my-god reaction. If you don’t care about reviews, then it’s fine.

Many of the reviews for the movie, especially the more casual opinions, root for Sylvester Stallone’s Dean as a fine example of the actor’s low-key skill. It’s a role he won’t ever be remembered for, but it’s nice to know that Stallone is good enough to play movie characters that aren’t a boxer or a bloodthirsty guerilla fighter. In fact, Stallone may be the true anchor of the film, making such a stylized (if a little ludicrous) concept work, going all in when the rest of the cast actually just half-commit even when they do their best. If one is to go through a more varied catalogue of Stallone’s movies, then Shade is a good film to include in that binge. Other actors in the film’s cast who would go on to be bigger deals more than a decade later, such as Jamie Foxx (who’s now a popular singer and an even more popular actor) and Thandie Newton (who’s been praised for her recent turn in Westworld) are also worth checking out in Shade, if only to see what they were up to before they became even bigger draws in Hollywood, coming out in better-reviewed movies.

In sum, Shade is best if you’re actually a poker fan and a noir, gangster, or action film fan, because all the elements in the movie are best enjoyed by those who are actively looking for those things in the thing they’re watching.

For everyone else who isn’t really interested in these things, in watching people get suckered and killed just because the characters take great pleasure in doing so, maybe you can do with watching another movie. Let this review save you the time and possible aggravation. It’s a good film, but it’s not something we’d go out of our way to really advocate. No need to go all in here.

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