High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story

Posted on September 29, 2012 by

120 min. – biography
Directed by: A. W. Vidmer
Written by: A. W. Vidmer
Starring: Michael Imperioli, Al Bernstein, Andrew N.S. Glazer

High Roller: The Stu Ungar StoryThis movie is a true story that is based on the life of poker legend Stu “The Kid” Ungar. The film has an alternate title called Stuey. The story is told in flashback beginning with Ungar (Michael Imperioli) sitting in the hotel room on the last night of his life. He is narrating his life story to a stranger and speaks of growing up as a bookie’s son. He moves on to his later life as a tournament gin player, then poker player, marriage, fatherhood, drug abuse and his eventual divorce. The movie concludes with Ungar’s third and final victory at the World Poker Series one year before he dies.

High Roller is not a movie about poker. It’s about people and the challenges they face. It’s about a young man who was so full of potential getting sidetracked by a gambling and drug addiction. These vices take over his life and what once was is no more. Michael Imperioli delivers a convincing performance as Stu. He captures fully the nuances of a man who has no control on his life that is controlled by an addiction to high-stakes gambling.

Stu Ungar - One of a KindThere are no heroes or the glamor that is so typical of Hollywood movies. There’s just the life of the man who happens to be good at gambling but also controlled by it. Movie viewers seem to want the glamour to take them from reality if just for a moment. This movie doesn’t do that and that could be one reason why the movie did not get raving reviews. Another reason that this movies is not higher in our list is that the book which this movie is based on is far superior to it (as it usually happens when movie is based on a book). The name of the book is One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey “The Kid” Ungar, The World’s Greatest Poker Player. Whoever has the time should read the book first. Those who prefer movies or do not have the time to read the book should not miss this movie. It still shows pretty well who really was Stu Ungar. By many considered as best gin rummy and poker player of all time.

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