Over the course of the past 18 months, we have all spent a lot more time than we would have liked scrolling through the many, many categories on Netflix. Something you may have noticed is an increase in the representation of gambling activities on TV shows and in movies.
More relaxed attitudes are forming towards gambling in many countries across the world. Recently, numerous law changes in the West have seen the online gambling industry boom in the States. Online gambling is legal in Canada as long as the providers are based offshore or licensed by the province. The increase in gambling popularity has resulted in a renaissance for the pastime on our TV screens. In this article we take a look at why directors opt to include gambling in their productions and look at some iconic gambling scenes.
If you can think of any great gambling moments in TV or film that we have missed out, be sure to let us know about them in the comments section below. If you can, include a YouTube clip so we can all enjoy it in full!
Why gambling is used in TV & Film
If you were to pick up a 400 page thriller, it would take you around 11 hours to leaf through the book cover to cover. During this time you would have an in-depth exploration of all of the main characters as the author sought to take you on a literary journey.
That is not a luxury that most directors have as movies and even some TV shows cannot go into the same level of depth as books. Therefore, in lieu of dedicating 45 minutes to telling you the main character’s life story, directors used short and snappy flashbacks dotted throughout the production.
Gambling as a narrative tool serves a similar purpose, it introduces excitement and jeopardy in a short, sharp burst for viewers. Everyone is aware of the inherent risks involved in gambling and of its social impact.
In introducing it to a movie or a TV show a director can convey an important message to viewers or quickly advance the plot whilst keeping the audience engaged. In other examples though, gambling is used as a hook to make productions cool and action packed.
The James Bond series is a particularly good example of this. Gambling is used time and time again by different actors to add a sense of glamour to the films. In this way the gambling scenes in Bond take on the same role as a car chase or a shootout- they are there to engage the viewer and keep them glued to the edge of their seat.
In recent year as gambling has become more mainstream, we have begun to see more and more films and TV shows in which gambling is the main theme. Art is a reflection of society and at the present time we are living in a society where gambling is growing in popularity.
In the coming years we can expect more and more gambling adaptations in TV & film where it is used not just as a narrative device but as the plot itself. Ahead of that, let’s take a look at three of the most iconic gambling scenes in TV & film.
In 1998 Matt Damon, Edward Norton and John Malkovich starred in this cult-classic gambling movie directed by John Dahl. In it, the main character played by Matt Damon is a law student and a talented underground poker player.
The film follows his life as he tries to strike a balance between his two passions and in the various twists and scrapes that arise from playing illegal, underground poker. There are a number of iconic scenes in the movie but this is perhaps the most famous of all…
#2 Molly’s Game
You may well have come across this film on your Netflix odyssey and idly skipped past it. If you have, then you’ve made a big mistake as this is one of the best films on the streaming service right now.
Released in 2017 and directed by Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game is a biographical film that tells the story of Molly Bloom an American entrepreneur and speaker. Bloom spent her twenties hosting and organising illegal, high-stakes poker games.
The film covers her rise from bartender to gambling kingpin and her inevitable downfall.
#3 Owning Mahowny
If you like to get really invested into a film and feel the cortisol running through your body throughout you absolutely have to watch Owning Mahowny. This 2003 Canadian film tells the story of a Toronto bank employee who embezzled more than $10 million to feed his gambling habit.
Philip Seymour Hoffman who plays the lead role of Dan Mahowny is captivating in his portrayal of a man riddled with addiction. The film is not only illustrative of problem gambling, but it is a wider exploration of how addiction in all its forms can have a detrimental impact on people’s lives.
Have you watched any of these gambling movies? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section below.