When the subject of gambling films is mentioned, most people immediately think of classics such as The Hustler, Casino, or even a blockbuster like Ocean’s Eleven. It is not surprising that Hollywood tends to concentrate on the bright lights of Las Vegas when it comes to portraying this world.
But when it comes to British films about gambling, it tends to be a more sombre affair. They are not so bothered about capturing the seedy underbelly of Vegas and the crime families that used to run it – but by the gritty realism of what the gambling world is all about. Most of the time anyway.
We thought we would highlight four British films about gambling – or, at the very least, used the subject as part of the story. All four are a long way from the gangster movies from the other side of the Atlantic and also have a very British feel about them. The best sportsbook bonuses will give you a head start with your betting – and these films will get you in the mood to hit the tables.
Casino Royale (2006)
Where else to start but with James Bond? There are many Bond movies in which the titular hero takes to the casino table to win big while outwitting a potentially villainous foe. Sean Connery famously put on a masterpiece of acting at the craps table in Diamonds are Forever. But we’re going for a later Bond.
Baccarat is supposed to be Bond’s game of choice but in this Daniel Craig reboot, he enters a high stakes poker game – much to the annoyance of his superiors. His plan is to bankrupt his opponent and get him to talk and the gambling scenes are remarkably realistic and exhilarating.
Although Clive Owen has had a very successful career, there is still a feeling that his magnetic qualities and acting skills have never really pushed him to the superstardom that he probably deserved. He was even put forward as a James Bond at one point, but somehow that never came to be.
But in this early film of his, directed by Mike Hodges, Owen is simply electric as a down-on-his-luck writer who reluctantly takes a job as a croupier. He soon falls headlong into this hidden world and the film portrays a side of gambling rarely seen. Inner monologues give the movie a noir feel and you can’t help being drawn in as Owen discovers the real world from the perspective of someone on the inside.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
This late 1990s caper movie somehow sums up the Cool Britannia vibe of the time and heralded a whole new genre of British action comedies. Most of what followed is best forgotten, but Lock Stock manages to be an exciting – and funny – ride into the underbelly of London.
Featuring a whole host of cameos from very familiar British actors, the film follows four young hopefuls who find themselves in debt to one of the East End’s hardest gangsters. A rigged card game is the answer they come up with – and just about everything goes wrong from there. This is not really a gambling movie, as such. But it does feature some terrific card game scenes.
Funny Man (1994)
This last one on our list is another perfect example of how British filmmakers turn away from the same old stories told by US gambling movies. We can’t think of another gambling horror comedy, for example. It is a gory, knowing, riot of a movie that never takes itself too seriously and doesn’t always land its jokes. But it is still a lot of fun – and it stars Christopher Lee!
Our hero plays a game of poker and wins his opponent’s ancestral home. He takes a visit to the property where he ignores warnings not to play further games of chance and ends up awakening a demonic creature that goes on to torment his family, as well as a group of hitchhikers that happen to turn up at the house too. Frequently breaking the fourth wall, this movie couldn’t be further than Martin Scorsese’s movies featuring gambling.