By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –
The Cincinnati Kid (Steve McQueen) is a masterful professional poker-player, making a name for himself in New Orleans. One day Lancey “The Man” Howard (Edward G. Robinson), a legend of the game, comes into town. The Kid has a game set up, for a chance to prove that he can beat anyone. But the game gets dangerous when dishonest gambler Slade (Rip Torn) tries to fix the game in his favor.
This underrated mid 60’s drama shows Steve McQueen in top acting form, proving that his performances didn’t require car-chases, or intense action.
That isn’t to say that it hurt, either
His subtlety in this film is easy to overlook given the preponderance of A-List supporting talent, but warrants examination nevertheless.
Speaking of the supporting talent, Edward G. Robinson gives one of his last great performances as “The Man”. His role blends sophistication and slyness and, while ostensibly an antagonist, somehow manages to be likable. Tuesday Weld is a girl next-door type as Steve McQueen’s on-again/off-again girlfriend, and Ann-Margret is a sensual temptress. While their characters don’t extend much deeper than that, the honesty of the performances make them shine through. Both actresses perhaps got too career credit on for their looks, and less for the fact that they’re both genuinely talented.
The beauty though, is certainly a plus…
And then you have Rip Torn, Karl Malden, and even Jazz-Legend Cab Calloway, who all make strong impressions in their own right.
Norman Jewison’s tight pacing moves the narrative along briskly, keeping the poker game tense all the way through. His use of subtle lighting and frugal, but on-point sound and music queues provide for a constant feeling of uneasiness. This gives way to a climactic poker hand that will have any audience sitting forward in their chairs.
Not nearly as well known as some of McQueen’s more prominent roles, but give it a watch, you won’t regret it.
Take a Drink: whenever they mention “The Man”
Drink a Shot: for Steve McQueen’s awesome Ann-Margaret ass-slap. (the sound crew must have had a hell of a time)
Take a Drink: when McQueen wins a hand. And as each player is eliminated.
Drink a Shot: for Cockfighting!