Film and TV

In All In, sound bites and stats obscure an interesting story

There's a lot of mythologizing in All In, an adoring, exhaustive survey of the last decade's poker boom and its impact on the culture. Director Douglas Tirola tries so hard to make poker a central metaphor for the new American Dream that at times the relentless stream of hot air and sound-biting obscure a pretty interesting story. The opening alludes to last year's government crackdown on online poker gaming with a "where were you when you heard the news" montage so strongly suggestive of JFK reminiscences that one of the interviewees points out the connection. But All In doesn't get out of its own way long enough to convince the unconverted of poker's unifying powers. What it offers instead are a lot of numbers: Sixty million people play poker every week; there are nine poker shows on television; online poker sites have posted profits in the billions. The idea that poker acquired and then shed a moral stigma is fascinating, as is the phenomenon of basement gamblers being held up as a new kind of sports star. But instead of sustaining a significant cultural story, at almost two hours, All In feels like an energetic, over-long highlight reel.

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Michelle Orange is a regular film contributor at Voice Media Group and its film partner, the Village Voice. VMG publications include LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.