Grinders dir. Matt Gallagher (Canada)
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This film is about grinders – people who play illegal poker for a living – in Toronto, which director Matt Gallagher makes look like a Soviet coal town (disclosure: that’s not that hard). Main character Danny spends most of his screen time drinking, mumbling about his baby girls, and passing out in front of online poker games in lonely Vegas hotel rooms. Main character Andre lives with his parents and likes t-shirts emblazoned with cartoon characters acting gangster. Secondary character Lawrence is a put-upon immigrant whose landlord is extorting him for the money he makes running his “social club.” Bleak stuff! But Gallagher has a fine sense of the ridiculous, and includes many wonderful slow-motion shots of Elvises gyrating against a Nevada desert sky. If only he’d refrained from making cringing poker-related pronouncements on the human condition, this could have been a great movie.