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4 Dogs Playing Poker

After a successful south-of-the-border heist of a prized statue, Holly (Stacy Edwards), Julian (Balthazar Getty), Kevin (Daniel London), Audrey (Olivia Williams), and ringleader Felix (Tim Curry) are ready to celebrate. But festivities are cut short when the recipient of the goods, Mr. Ellington (Forrest Whitaker), shows up with two of his henchmen. Ellington informs the crew that he's been tipped off that their loot was not put on the boat as scheduled, and if the statue doesn't turn up in five days on the boat then the gang will either have to come up with $1 million reimbursement for Ellington or they'll be killed — violently. When one of their crew is found dead, a brilliant plan to get the money is deduced: Put a $1 million life insurance policy on one of their clan and then kill them. To make things fair, everyone gets a policy, and a game of cards chooses who among them is the victim, and who is the killer. Some great directors (Guy Richie, Quentin Tarantino, John Dahl, Christopher Nolan) have cut their teeth on low-budget thrillers, but a fairly airtight plot is always essential. Paul Rachman's 4 Dogs Playing Poker (1999) quickly undermines the viewer's suspension of disbelief, as it doesn't take a Walter Neff — or even a faint knowledge of Double Indemnity — to figure out that insurance companies don't pay off $1 million policies in less than a week, especially in the case of a violent death. Once that central plot pin is removed, we're stuck with a bunch of creeps running around nervous that the other one might kill them — until the obligatory twist ending. Yawn. Warner's DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Theatrical trailer, cast and crew bios. Snap-case.
—DSH



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