Phillip wins every time he gambles. In Las Vegas, greed rules, and people will stop at nothing to control a man and his money.

The Winner is a tantalising, character-driven thriller. Alex Cox has pulled together a marvellous cast, despite a low budget. Vincent D'Onofrio's naive Phillip is played to perfection, Rebecca De Mornay (Louise) is as sexy and manipulative as one could hope for, and Michael Madsen (Wolf) is as cool and ruthless as ever. The standout performance is Frank Whaley as smalltime gangster Joey. Although initially little more than a comic foil, there is a depth to the character which is hinted at in exactly the right measure.

The script isn't up to the snappy standard of modern gangster flicks, but feels appropriate for a movie whose strength is its characters and not their actions. Whether this appropriate dialogue is intentional, or a lucky coincidence, is debatable, as the plot is distinctly poor.

For all its black humour, sexiness and intrigue, The Winner is lacking something in the final analysis. It feels like a film whose concept has been fully investigated in the first half, and then just coasts to the end hoping the momentum is maintained. The cracks begin to show.

If you don't expect much from The Winner you may, just may, be pleasantly surprised.

Reviewed on: 14 Mar 2003
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A gambler on a winning streak finds that others will stop at nothing to get their hands on his cash.
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Director: Alex Cox

Writer: Wendy Riss, based on her play A Darker Purpose

Starring: Vincent D'Onofrio, Rebecca De Mornay, Michael Madsen, Billy Bob Thornton, Frank Whalley

Year: 1996

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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