Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Cincinnati Kid

Steve McQueen plays the title character in a good ol' fashioned poker movie AKA cliche movie heaven. The Kid is an up and comer in the 5 card stud game and finally gets a chance to test his mettle agains the legendary Lancey Howard (portrayed by the legendary Edward G. Robinson). Kid also has to deal with his marriage-on-the-mind gal (Tuesday Weld) while fighting off the advances of his best friend's wife (Ann-Margaret).

Before the big showdown, Kid learns that a gambler named Slade (A young Rip Torn) has bet a lot of money on him to win... so much so he has propositioned the dealer Shooter (Karl Malden) to throw a card or two the Kid's way. The only problem is that the Kid doesn't want to cheat and Shooter doesn't want to test his friendship.

All the acting is fine. McQueen looks a little bored at times with the boring romance between his character and Tuesday Weld's... can't say that I blame him. The real problem here is the script. You never really get a true since of the characters. It would have been nice to see some backstory on the Kid's relationship with Shooter. Ann-Margaret's character should have been cut out completely. Just because you are hot doesn't mean you need to waste valuable camera time. Edward G. Robinson has the only real solid performance here. He is quite good in the few scenes he has with McQueen.

Director Norman Jewison spends an achingly, long time to set up the final meeting. I suppose he did have the constraints of a book to deal with, but it would have been nice to see the Kid in more action before that. Isn't a poker movie supposed to be about poker? The Cincinnati Kid comes right at the beginning a long stretch of success for Jewison that included The Thomas Crown Affair. Although for my money, he didn't hit his peak until 1984's A Soldier's Story.

The Cincinnati Kid was a real let down. A lot of praise has been heaped on it over the years and to find it is just another one of those old "classics" that really isn't, makes me tired. So many times pictures during the 50's and 60's get a pass because at the time they were something, but films like this would get a drubbing from today's critics.


No comments: