McQueen is the Kid, a young hot-shot poker player ready to take on Mr. Big. Mr. Big is Lacey Howard (Edward G. Robinson). The story is about The Kid's life, the events leading up to the big game, and the game itself.
McQueen's girlfriend is played by Tuesday Weld, so life isn't TOO bad for him. His best friend is by-the-books, strictly percentages Karl Malden. Karl (in his pre-gigantic nose days) is comically paired with Ann-Margaret. Could two people, actors or characters, be more ill-fit for each other? The tension plays into the plot.
I love poker, so I had a hook into this film, but I think non players would also dig it. Tense drama, great acting, great story telling, and, oh yea ...
Ann-Margaret was NASTY HOT!
This woman stole every scene she was in. She could be in the background and out of focus and draw the eye. She had this intense-malicious-sexy look on her face the entire time. Man, was she smokin'! She could do more in a turtleneck and coveralls than most woman could in the buff! Add to that fact she was married to Mister Straight-Lace Malden and hanging around with the church mouse (and hot) Tuesday Weld, the tension was palpable.
Robinson impressed me. He was perfect in the role. I always thought of him as a two-dimensional actor. Must rethink that now. Rip Torn was great (only knew him from Men in Black) as a slimy manipulator. The background characters included Jack Westin, Joan Blondell, Dub Taylor, and oddly, Cab Calloway. Too bad he didn't sing. Joan was awesome as a dealer. A small role, but she shined.
While I enjoy seeing Steve McQueen on screen, I can't say I'm impressed by his acting. He seems to play one character: Steve McQueen. I know people who know more about acting will strongly disagree, but they can say so on THEIR movie blog.
As a poker player, the lingo and depiction was fairly good. They announce that there will be no string raises, and of course they string raise throughout. Stuff like that aside, it was fine. They should have played with chips, but I guess having wads of cash on the table was more dramatic. I haven't looked into this, but I got the impression that Rounders (1998) was sort of a sequel. It seems to start where The Cincinnati Kid ends. I hope that's not a spoiler.
I've waffled back and forth whether to give this film a 4 or 4.5. It's not really the kind of movie you can watch over and over again. In the end I'll settle on an AMRU of 4.